Tuesday, May 14, 2024

How Do Soldiers Deal With Ptsd

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Avoidance Of Reminders Of Traumatic Events

Soldier talks about his struggle with depression and PTSD

Because recalling traumatic events can be emotionally distressing, many individuals with PTSD avoid people, places, or things that might remind them of these experiences. Either intentionally or unconsciously, people with a diagnosis of PTSD typically steer clear of stressors that might trigger the painful thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma.

Among veterans with PTSD, this avoidance might involve resisting discussion of their military service or withdrawing from friendships with fellow service members. Post-deployment, veterans may rebuff questions from family members and loved ones about their combat experiences.

For many veterans with PTSD, seeking help may be extremely challenging, as doing so will likely involve direct discussion of their trauma. This barrier, coupled with our cultures general stigma regarding mental illness, causes far too many veterans to avoid the mental health care they need.

Ptsd In Veterans: Know The Signs And Ways To Cope

More than 60,000 U.S. military veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder face a higher risk of thinking about and attempting suicide.

Estimates indicate 12 to 20% of veterans have PTSD, said Dr. Ellen Teng, a clinical research psychologist and director of the Center for Innovative Treatment of Anxiety and Stress at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center . The rate of PTSD is higher among service members than civilians because, in addition to exposure to life-threatening situations related to combat, there is a high rate of sexual trauma in the military.

Although men also experience sexual harassment and assault, approximately 20% of women veterans report experiencing sexual assault in the military and more than half have reported sexual harassment.

Recognizing the symptoms and risk factors

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Avoiding people, places, and activities that are reminders of the trauma
  • Flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories related to the traumatic event
  • Feelings of sadness, fear and anger
  • Hyper-vigilance of surroundings
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating

As a way of coping, veterans may also turn to using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Teng says this can lead to substance abuse disorders.

Effective treatments
Treatments on the horizon
Helping a loved one

Sexual Assault In The Military

Sexual misconduct is disturbingly common within the United States military. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs coined the term military sexual trauma to describe all forms of sexual assault or harassment experienced during military service. Survivors of these acts of sexual aggression often experience PTSD, as do survivors of sexual assault in civilian life.

Statistics pertaining to sexual assault in the military are alarming, including the following data points:

  • Twenty-three percent of female veterans reported sexual assault while serving in the military.
  • 55 percent of female veterans and 38% of male veterans experienced sexual harassment while serving in the military.
  • Though stereotypes suggest survivors of sexual assault are predominantly female, more than half of veterans with military sexual trauma are men.

Trauma stemming from sexual harassment and assault can be no less devastating to veterans than experiences of combat, and prevention is a stated priority for U.S. Department of Defence. Additionally, VA health care facilities often offer services specifically designed for veterans who were sexually assaulted while serving.

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Encourage Veterans To Join A Support Group

Even with a larger understanding of PTSD and how it impacts veterans, it may be difficult communicating with former service members about their mental health. Support groups can help veterans by providing them with a community of colleagues who have had similar experiences.

A health-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support. A persons relationship with a doctor or other medical personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a persons family and friends may not understand the impact of a disease or treatment, according to an article from the Mayo Clinic. A support group among people with shared experiences may function as a bridge between medical and emotional needs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, provides a helpful resource on how to start a support group for veterans. There may be additional support groups available from veteran, religious, nonprofit and health organizations in the veterans community. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion offers directories and resources to help access support groups for certain health afflictions. Additionally, veterans can also join digital communities on platforms including Facebook, where they can share experiences with other veterans across the world who may be suffering from similar illnesses.

Ptsd Symptoms: What Affected Veterans Experiences

Individuals with PTSD experience a diverse array of symptoms, and veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD may face several kinds of challenging thoughts and feelings. However, PTSD is generally characterized by a few distinct categories of symptoms, which mental health professionals use to assess and treat the disorder.These symptom categories, as described in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , capture the kinds of mental health problems that veterans with PTSD experience to differing degrees. These DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for PTSD are widely accepted in psychiatry and related mental health fields. To understand the daily struggles that PTSD can entail or to assess whether you might be experiencing this condition yourself consider the following:

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Ptsd Not Due To Combat

Prevalence statistics suggest that PTSD stemming from combat exposure is quite common. However, people in the military may also be at risk of experiencing other types of traumatic events.

Women in the military may be at high risk of experiencing sexual trauma, often referred to as military sexual trauma . Statistics also suggest that many men experience sexual harassment.

Among veterans who use VA healthcare services, 23% reported experiencing a sexual assault while in the military. Around 55% of women and 38% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment while serving in the military.

I Have More Questions Where Can I Go For Help

VA knows that being a Caregiver can be both rewarding and hard. You can always find more information at www.caregiver.va.gov, including contact information for the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator nearest you.

You can also call VAs Caregiver Support Line toll-free at 1-855-260-3274.

The Caregiver Support Line is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am 11:00 pm ET, and Saturday, 10:30 am 6:00 pm ET.

  • Tell you about the assistance available from VA.
  • Help you access services and benefits.
  • Connect you with your local Caregiver Support Coordinator at a VA Medical Center near you.
  • Just listen, if thats what you need right now.

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

Sherman, M.D. . SAFE Program: Mental Health Facts for Families. Oklahoma City, Veterans Affairs Medical Center).

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Alcoholism And Drug Use In Soldiers With Ptsd

In some soldiers with PTSD, the persistent and harrowing symptoms that accompany the disorder lead to escape into drug use or alcohol abuse. In fact, individuals with PTSD experience much higher rates of substance abuse often in futile attempts to block intrusive thoughts, cope with chronic insomnia and sleep interrupted from nightmares, or deal with the emotional pain involved with the disorder.

Unfortunately, when substance abuse and PTSD collide, the soldier generally does not improve his state of being. Alcohol and drug addiction only serve to impede cognitive and emotional healing, and create a secondary obstacle to healthy relationships and long-term happiness. In some cases, sudden outbursts of anger associated with PTSD can even become unbridled, leading to incidences of verbal and physical domestic abuse.

Effects Of The Coronavirus Pandemic On Ptsd

Invisible wounds: Living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

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The COVID-19 pandemic creates stressors like fear about getting sick, concern for loved ones, isolation, job loss and new childcare and family demands. If you have been through traumatic events in the past, you may have learned to cope well in crisis situations. However, dealing with the pandemic is unique some ways people copelike eating out or watching or playing sportsmay not be an option. For those with PTSD, the pandemic may trigger or affect your PTSD symptoms.

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Predicting Depression And Ptsd Before Deployment Could Help Soldiers Cope

A set of validated, self-reported questions administered early in a soldiers career could predict mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after return from deployment, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychology.The questions assess 14 psychological attributes such as adaptability, coping ability and optimism. They could be used to identify high-risk individuals and provide them with psychological and social resources to help them cope with stressors of deployment including combat trauma and extended separation from friends and family, researchers at Naval Postgraduate School and Research Facilitation Laboratory, USA suggest.

In addition to scoring psychological health attributes before deployment, the researchers also generated an individual, composite risk score for each soldier using baseline psychological attributes and demographic information such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, and military occupation group. They found that out of those whose score classified them as being at highest risk for psychological health disorders , 31% screened positive for depression, while 27% screened positive for PTSD after return from deployment.

-ENDS-

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Trauma And Ptsd Today

Though the concept of shell-shock shares many features with PTSD, ideas of what constitutes trauma and treatments have since changed dramatically. The focus towards treating underlying cognitive and behavioural symptoms has shown a great reduction in the physical consequences of trauma observed during World War I. Service personnel are routinely screened for symptoms of trauma before and after deployment identifying issues early reduces the risk of developing PTSD, whereas shell-shock treatment focused on treating symptoms once they became severe.

Nevertheless, many of the same challenges observed a century ago are equally relevant today. The stigma attached to mental illness still obstructs people from receiving treatment, causing many to self-medicate with alcohol to ease their symptoms instead. Such challenges are not unique to veterans either refugees and sexual assault survivors are also deeply affected by trauma, but often face barriers to receiving proper treatment, exacerbating their PTSD.

Overall, we have a better understanding of what trauma is because of World War I. Although modern treatments for PTSD are more effective than those for shell-shock, issues such as social stigma and alcohol misuse remain. These are lessons from World War I we are still learning. We must not forget the challenges facing service personnel exposed to trauma, both today and a century ago.

Ptsd And The Military

The National Institute of Mental Health explains that PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. In the case of military personnel specifically, these types of events typically occur during times of war when soldiers find themselves face-to-face with not only their own mortality, but that of their fellow comrades as well.

In fact, PTSD is more common for military personnel than for the general population. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 7 to 8 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some time in their lives. Yet, this rate is much higher for military veterans, and the exact amount depends largely on which conflict they endured.

For instance, those serving in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have somewhere between an 11 and 20 percent of developing PTSD. However, it is estimated that approximately 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans developed or will develop this particular mental health condition. So, what is it like for veterans who are living with PTSD?

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Looking Toward A Brighter Future With Ptsd

People with PTSD should be aware that post-traumatic growth, the idea that people can not only recover from PTSD but also become stronger in spite of their diagnosis, is possible. You develop stronger relationships with people, you have a newfound sense of strength, maybe you develop a stronger spirituality or extensional connection, Moore says. You can actually become a better person for it and live a more rewarding, fulfilling life.

In 2013, briefly after joining the National Guard, Anderson was medically discharged as a result of his PTSD diagnosis. Although he had tried other types of treatments, he learned about accelerated resolution therapy , and after just one session, his intrusive memories disappeared. ART for me has been like brain fitness on steroids, he says.

According to a March 2017 study in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, although early research suggests ART may be an effective therapy for PTSD, there has been only one randomized controlled trial to date, so more research is needed. It may very well be one of the top treatments in the next 10 years, but I think its too early to tell, Moore says.

Anderson, who opened a nonprofit to provide ART therapy for veterans, still struggles with memory, managing tasks, and being in public places with large crowds. Some days he can only write an email or make a phone call, but that isnt always the case. There are other days where you just cant stop me and I can do everything, he says.

Rates Of Ptsd Among Veterans By War

Some research suggests that rates of PTSD differ among veterans who served in different military conflicts. Indeed, there is compelling statistical evidence that military personnel who served in certain wars were somewhat more likely to develop PTSD symptoms.

  • Vietnam War Veterans: The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, conducted from 1986 to 1988, found that 15.2% of men and 8.1% of women who served in Vietnam met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Additionally, the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 30.9% among men who served in Vietnam and 26.9% among women. In a more recent study, researchers also found that PTSD was more prevalent among Vietnam veterans who had served in the theater of combat.
  • Gulf War Veterans: In a study of over 11,000 Gulf War veterans conducted from 1995 to 1997, researcher Han K. Kang and his colleagues found that 12.1% had PTSD at the time they were surveyed.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans: In a 2008 study, researchers at the RAND Corporation analyzed the psychological health of 1,938 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom . OEF commenced in Afghanistan in 2001, whereas OIF launched in 2003. Among these veterans, 13.8% met criteria for PTSD at the time they were assessed.

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Ptsd Rates In Military Soldiers

It is not surprising that high rates of PTSD have been found among soldiers from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the VA, the prevalence of PTSD among military veterans depends on the combat where they served.

  • Vietnam War: The most recent research on PSTD among Vietnam veterans was conducted during the mid-to-late 1980s. Those results found that 15.2% of men and 8.1% of women who had served in Vietnam had PTSD when the study was conducted. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among Vietnam veterans was 30.9% for men and 26.9% for women.
  • Gulf War : Approximately 12% of veterans of the first war in Iraq report having PTSD in any given year.
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom : One study found that the prevalence rate of PTSD among veterans who served in these conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was approximately 13.8%.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Ptsd

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First, know that youre not alone. We are very sorry to hear you are struggling, but we believe no matter what youre going through, with help you can find a future to look forward to. If you think you or a loved one has PTSD, please contact the Wounded Warrior Project® Resource Center at or , and we will connect you with someone who can help. Were stronger when we work together, so we collaborate with many other veterans service organizations to help veterans of all generations. Our Resource Center is always happy to work with veterans from all generations to connect them with resources specifically developed to help them.

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How Ptsd Affects Veterans

Though PTSD has been around for a long time, its only recently that healthcare professionals have started understanding how this ailment can manifest different symptoms in individuals.

PTSD, also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental illness where an individual fails to recover from a traumatic event. This can lead to a series of symptoms like nightmares, hallucinations, panic attacks and even depression.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs , PTSD can be defined as a feeling of out of control and is not limited to military members.

In military members, however, PTSD can surface in members who have experienced traumatic events like-

  • Military sexual trauma
  • Loss of fellow members

While PTSD is related to trauma, experiencing a traumatic event isnt always necessary. It can also be detected if an individual lives in a combat zone.

PTSD In Veterans

It was only in the 1960s that the US military recognized PTSD as a response to the Vietnam War.

According to recent surveys, 30% of the Veterans who served in the Vietnam War have PTSD. In other words, every 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans had PTSD at one point in their lives.

Moreover, 12% of the Veterans who served in the Gulf war experience PTSD symptoms every year.

While the armed conflict is an important factor that can lead to PTSD, some Veterans who served in brief combat missions or were put through enhanced training methods might also develop PTSD.

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