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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Military

By November 26, 2019 January 21st, 2020 Blog

For too many, returning from military service means coping with the symptoms of trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the words of famous, Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, “War is hell.” It is hell for civilians caught in the crossfire and can be hell for the political powers that petition for it. But, most especially, war can become an exceptionally cruel and lasting hell for the soldiers tasked with waging it.

Once called shellshock, then Vietnam Veteran’s Disorder, PTSD is common among military personnel who have served in a combat environment. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that:

  • Approximately 11 to 20 out of every 100 veterans (between 11 to 20%) who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year.
  • Approximately 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Approximately 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans (15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD during the most recent study on Vietnam veterans. Additionally, it is believed that 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

These populations may have higher rates of PTSD than veterans returning from World War I and World War II, partially because the nature of warfare has changed significantly since the mid-20th century, and there are new pressures and challenges more recent veterans experience. Veterans today are not returning with a unanimous victory like the WWI OR WWII veterans did.  With each subsequent group,  Korea, Vietnam,  Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqui Freedom (OIF),  there were fewer and fewer individuals who experienced active combat. This equates to a smaller pool of people who can relate to the returning veterans’ experiences. They do not have many people to speak to about their experiences, and so when they come back, they are more hyper-vigilant, they have trouble trusting, they attempt to control situations, they shut down, and become less open. Additionally, they have less intimacy in conversations with others, because others are not truly able to understand what they have experienced.

Additionally, veterans today come home in a matter of days as opposed to the weeks it would take to get back by ship like the veterans of the world wars. When they return, they often come home to high-stress jobs that do not give them ample time to decompress and process all they witnessed. It is hard to tell if any of these factors truly have any effect on PTSD, but it is very likely that they play a role.

Regardless, suicide rates are increasing among veterans. The Veterans Affairs reports that there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 through 2016, and from 2005 to 2016, veteran and non-veteran adult suicide rates increased 25.9% and 20.6%, respectively. In 2016, the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for age and gender.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying traumatic event. Though PTSD occurs at higher rates among military personnel than the general population, it can develop in anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Some of the most common events that result in PTSD are serious accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, armed robberies, war/combat, and assault. 

There are many different symptoms someone with PTSD may experience. In order for someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, however, they do not have to experience all of the symptoms on the list. The symptoms include: 

  • Avoiding anything that reminds them of their trauma which can potentially cause them to avoid any people, places, situations, objects and/or activities that remind them of their trauma or evoke other PTSD symptoms. They will do whatever they can to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event they either experienced or witnessed. They may also resist or avoid talking to anyone altogether. 
  • Feelings of irritability, angry outbursts, recklessness, self-destructive behaviors, difficulty concentrating, easily startled, and difficulty sleeping are all potential ways PTSD can affect a person’s personality, and/or behavior. 
  • People suffering from PTSD may experience ongoing and distorted beliefs about themselves or others. These feelings include ongoing fear, horror, guilt, anger, and shame. These thoughts and feelings may cause them to lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed. They may also cause them to feel detached or estranged from the world around them. 
  • PTSD can also cause intrusive thoughts, such as repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks. These thoughts can be so vivid that people will genuinely feel as though they are physically re-living their traumatic experiences. 

PTSD can happen to anyone at any time and currently affects roughly 3.5% of the population in the United States. Also, it is estimated that nearly 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely as men. For people suffering from PTSD, these symptoms cause significant anguish and can prohibit them from continuing to carry out their daily activities. 

Many people who are exposed to a traumatic event will experience at least one of the above PTSD symptoms. However, for a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must last for more than a month. Many individuals develop symptoms within the first three months following the trauma, however, symptoms can appear even later. Not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is important to note that PTSD is not a sign of weakness.

Early Intervention and Treatment is Critical

Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of a veteran or anyone suffering from PTSD. Uncharacteristic behavior can become increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful. 

Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for both PTS and PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Normally, only one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment. 

Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing a person from enjoying the full life they deserve. Do not let PTSD take control of your life. There is always hope and someone is always available to help.  Contact ART International to learn more about ART or find to find a therapist near you.