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What Causes Ptsd In Veterans

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Access To Supports And Treatments

About PTSD symptoms: “One of my big triggers is driving.” Veteran Timm Lovitt

Early intervention and access to treatment are the first steps in the recovery process. If you have diagnosed PTSD, or any mental health condition, DVA may pay for your treatment, whatever the cause .

DVA will pay for your treatment of any mental health condition before, during, or after you make a compensation claim or even if you never make a compensation claim. Call us on or find out if you are eligible and how to apply.

Gold Health Card holders have access to DVA-funded treatment arrangements for all health conditions, including mental health. White Health Card holders have access to DVA-funded treatment arrangements for specific conditions, as well as any mental health condition under Non-Liability Health Care arrangements.

There Are High Unmet Needs But Also Opportunities For Improvement In Both Diagnosing And Treating Ptsd

Diagnosing and then treating PTSD can be nuanced due to the complexity and timing of PTS presentation, with patients having multiple symptoms arising from the symptom clusters.16

  • PTSD symptoms may start within 3 months of the traumatic event, but sometimes emerge years later.
  • PTSD may be substantially underdiagnosed due to comorbidities and substance abuse, stigma associated with the diagnosis, lack of awareness among physicians and patients, and a lack of screening tools.

Further Reading Suggested PTS Resources

Mayo Clinic: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


  • Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 62:617-627.
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs. National Center for PTSD. How common is PTSD in Adults?. Accessed in 2020. .
  • Mayo Clinic. Post-traumatic stress disorder. 2014. .
  • Kessler RC, Petukhova M, Sampson NA, Zaslavsky AM, Wittchen HU. Twelve-month and lifetime prevalence and lifetime morbid risk of anxiety and mood disorders in the United States. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2012 21:169-184.
  • Bryant RA, Friedman MJ, Spiegel D, Ursano R, Strain J. A review of acute stress disorder in DSM-5. Depress Anxiety. 2011 28:802-817.
  • Trauma In All Its Guises

    PTSD is sometimes triggered by a single traumatic incident. However, it can also come from a culmination of highly disturbing events. This is why anyone who has experienced a trauma or traumatic events can develop PTSD or C-PTSD.

    PTSD in the military is often referred to as combat stress. It is often linked to individuals fearing for their life or seeing others killed and hurt in explosions. However, military personnel are often also called in to help during the worst human tragedies and the bleakest natural disasters. If you are a soldier digging bodies from the rubble, or retrieving the dead from flood waters, though your own safety is assured, you are dealing with a constant assault on your mental and emotional resilience. They also often deal with the victims family and friends, who have lost loved ones in horrific circumstances.

    On a daily basis, the armed forces can be physically and mentally stretched by the sort of tasks that few people can face for even a few minutes. For some, the damage of this level of stress and distress is immeasurable.

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    What Are The 5 Types Of Ptsd

    PTSD Examined: The Five Types of Post Traumatic Stress DisorderNormal Stress Response. Normal stress response is what occurs before PTSD begins. Acute Stress Disorder. Acute stress disorder, while not the same as PTSD, can occur in people who have been exposed to what is or what feels like a life-threatening event. Uncomplicated PTSD. Complex PTSD. Comorbid PTSD.

    Take Care Of Your Body

    Sudden Change Strips Veterans

    The symptoms of PTSD, such as insomnia, anger, concentration problems, and jumpiness, can be hard on your body and eventually take a toll on your overall health. Thats why its so important to take care of yourself.

    You may be drawn to activities and behaviors that pump up adrenaline, whether its caffeine, drugs, violent video games, driving recklessly, or daredevil sports. After being in a combat zone, thats what feels normal. But if you recognize these urges for what they are, you can make better choices that will calm and protect your bodyand your mind.

    Take time to relax.Relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, or yoga can reduce stress, ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, help you sleep better, and increase feelings of peace and well-being.

    Find safe ways to blow off steam. Pound on a punching bag, pummel a pillow, go for a hard run, sing along to loud music, or find a secluded place to scream at the top of your lungs.

    Support your body with a healthy diet. Omega-3s play a vital role in emotional health so incorporate foods such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts into your diet. Limit processed and fried food, sugars, and refined carbs which can exacerbate mood swings and energy fluctuations.

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    Nonpharmacological Treatment Of Ptsd In Veterans

    The use of psychological interventions is regarded as a first-line approach for PTSD by a range of authoritative sources. Of the wide variety of psychotherapies available, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered to have the strongest evidence for reducing the symptoms of PTSD in veterans and has been shown to be more effective than any other nondrug treatment.

    Two of the most studied types of CBTcognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapyare recommended as first-line treatments in PTSD practice guidelines around the world, including the guideline jointly issued by the VA and the Department of Defense .,

    First developed to treat the symptoms of PTSD in sexual assault victims, CPT focuses on the impact of the trauma. In CPT, the therapist helps the patient identify negative thoughts related to the event, understand how they can cause stress, replace those thoughts, and cope with the upsetting feelings.

    PE therapy has been shown to be effective in 60% of veterans with PTSD. During the treatment, repeated revisiting of the trauma in a safe, clinical setting helps the patient change how he or she reacts to memories of traumatic experiences, as well as learn how to master fear- and stress-inducing situations moving forward. PE and CPT treatments each take approximately 12 weekly sessions to complete.,

    Help A Veteran To Seek Mental Health Treatment

    One of the first and most difficult tasks in treating a veteran with PTSD is getting the veteran to acknowledge there is a mental health condition in the first place. One way to help these veterans is by encouraging them to seek counseling or treatment.

    According to a fact sheet from the Rand Corporation, veterans and active military personnel are often reluctant to seek care for mental health concerns. Potential reasons for veterans reluctance to pursue mental health treatment include the perception that it is a sign of weakness, fear of potential career repercussions for seeking treatment and skepticism about the effectiveness of such treatments.

    This is where families and friends can help. Addressing these concerns and encouraging a veteran to seek help for PTSD can prove immensely beneficial to all parties involved.

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    Potential Causes Of Ptsd In The Military And When Symptoms May Lead To A Diagnosis

    People in the military can develop PTSD from trauma that occurs in combat, such as witnessing other people be killed, as in Andersons case, or seeing dead bodies on the ground or receiving threats to their lives.

    But PTSD may occur as a result of trauma not only during combat, but also during training or even in times of peace.

    For instance, military sexual trauma, or trauma as a result of sexual assault or sexual harassment during peacetime, training, or war, can cause men and women to develop PTSD.

    According to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs national screening program, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men report that they have experienced sexual trauma in the military.

    Indeed, post-traumatic stress can result after any event that is shocking, says Annette T. Hill, a licensed professional counselor at Warriors Heart, a treatment center for active military, veterans, and first responders in Bandera, Texas. Hills son suffered from PTSD and killed himself in 2009. A diagnosis of PTSD results when symptoms last for one month or more, she notes.

    Symptoms Of Ptsd In Veterans

    Doctor discusses PTSD, its effects on war veterans

    While you can develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, sometimes symptoms dont surface for months or even years after you return from deployment. While PTSD develops differently in each veteran, there are four symptom clusters:

  • Recurrent, intrusive reminders of the traumatic event, including distressing thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks where you feel like the event is happening again. You may experience extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the trauma such as panic attacks, uncontrollable shaking, and heart palpitations.
  • Extreme avoidance of things that remind you of the traumatic event, including people, places, thoughts, or situations you associate with the bad memories. This includes withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in everyday activities.
  • Negative changes in your thoughts and mood, such as exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself or the world and persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame. You may notice a diminished ability to experience positive emotions.
  • Being on guard all the time, jumpy, and emotionally reactive, as indicated by irritability, anger, reckless behavior, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and hypervigilance .
  • Suicide prevention in veterans with PTSD

    Its common for veterans with PTSD to experience suicidal thoughts. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesnt mean that you are crazy, weak, or flawed.

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    Who Is At Risk Of Developing Ptsd

    A loved one, especially a military veteran or service person can develop PTSD no matter their age. There are, however, certain risk factors that increase the chance of developing PTSD. For example, the length of time of exposure to the traumatic event or the extent of the injury suffered by a person during the traumatic event can increase the likelihood that a servicemember will develop PTSD as a result of their military service. In other words, the amount of combat experienced can directly correspond to the likelihood of developing PTSD.

    There are additional factors that can increase the chances of developing PTSD. Personal factors, like previous exposure to a traumatic event, age, and gender can also all affect whether a person will develop PTSD. Other factors like inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and/or depression, and a persons personal temperament can affect the likelihood of developing PTSD. The way the brain regulates the chemicals and hormones the body releases in response to stress can also affect whether a person develops PTSD during their lifetime.

    Ptsd And Vietnam Veterans: A Lasting Issue 40 Years Later

    Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as having flashbacks, upsetting memories, and anxiety following a traumatic event. It was first officially recognized as a mental health condition in 1980, only five years after the end of the Vietnam War. For hundreds of years, these symptoms have been described under different names in soldiers from many wars. However, Vietnam Veterans with these symptoms were the first to have the term PTSD applied to them. Despite the passage of 50 years since the war, for some Vietnam Veterans, PTSD remains a chronic reality of everyday life.

    In 1983, Congress requested that VA conduct a study on the prevalence of PTSD and other postwar psychological problems among Vietnam Veterans. This was the first study to evaluate the prevalence of PTSD among Veterans, and became known as the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study . The NVVRS brought greater attention to the issue of PTSD as it found that as many as 15 percent of Veterans had PTSD.

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    How Many Veterans Have Ptsd And What Can We Do About It

    Ask how many veterans have PTSD and you may be shocked by the answer. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 out of every 100 veteransexperience post-traumatic stress disorder a number that is both overwhelming and, unfortunately, not always acknowledged to the degree that it should be.

    Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that occurs after exposure to a traumatic event. Unable to cope with what has been experienced, the brain exists in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight, with intense physical and emotional reactions triggered by memories of the event that are spurned by high-anxiety situations.

    For veterans returning from combat zones, the symptoms of PTSD often include nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and difficulties processing the emotions of the trauma. Other symptoms include difficulties sleeping and maintaining relationships, wild fluctuations in anger and aggression, and self-destructive behaviors.

    So why do so many soldiers have PTSD? And why do some experience it but not others? Ina study published in Clinical Psychological Science, researchers determined that the stress of combat was a large contributor to veterans PTSD but usually not the only one. There is often an underlying, pre-combat psychiatric disorder, and the experience of directly doing harm to another is a common thread. An additional common factor was age, with younger soldiers being more likely to develop PTSD.

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    Other Illnesses And Ptsd

    Suicide, accidental injury, and viral hepatitisA study in 2019, led by researchers at the White River VA Medical Center in Vermont, found that Veterans who have been treated for PTSD are twice as likely as other Americans to die from suicide, accidental injury, and viral hepatitis . Of the Veterans who died by accidental injury, more than half succumbed to poisoning.

    The investigators reviewed data on nearly 500,000 former service members who underwent PTSD treatment in the VA health care system from 2008 to 2013. They found that Veterans with PTSD were also more likely to die than other Americans from diabetes and chronic liver disease, and were 5% more likely to die from any cause. They were less likely to die from cerebrovascular disease, which can cause stroke or brain aneurysms, or from cancer.

    According to the research team, these findings suggest that behavioral factors may contribute to excess mortality risk, because Veterans with PTSD may engage in unhealthy or risky lifestyle behaviors like injecting illegal drugs.

    Endothelial dysfunctionA 2016 study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California found that blood vessels of Veterans with PTSD are unable to expand normally in response to stimuli, compared with Veterans without PTSD. This condition, called endothelial dysfunction, has been linked to heart disease.

    What Are The Risk Factors For Ptsd Among Military Service Members

    Risk factors for PTSD among people in the military include lower education status, previous traumas, drug and alcohol use, poor social support, and a history of mental illness. Prior to joining the military, if you have mental health issues, youre more likely to develop PTSD, says Bret Moore, PsyD, a prescribing psychologist and board-certified clinical psychologist in San Antonio, Texas, and author of The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook.

    Genetics may also make certain individuals more predisposed to developing PTSD than others. In a study in Molecular Psychiatry, 29 percent of a group of American and European women who had PTSD had a genetic risk factor for the mental illness. They also found that those people who had other mental illnesses were at a higher risk for developing PTSD after exposure to trauma.

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    Understanding Ptsd In Veterans

    Are you having a hard time readjusting to life out of the military? Are you always on edge, always on the verge of panicking or exploding, or, on the flip side, do you feel emotionally numb and disconnected from your loved ones? Do you believe that youll never feel normal again?

    For all too many veterans, these are common experienceslingering symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder . Its hard living with untreated PTSD and, with long V.A. wait times, its easy to get discouraged. But you can feel better, and you can start today, even while youre waiting for professional treatment. There are many things you can do to help yourself overcome PTSD and come out the other side even stronger than before.

    Common Causes Of Ptsd

    What are causes and effects of PTSD?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder gets a lot of press, especially regarding military veterans who return from combat. For example, its estimated that 11-20% of veterans who served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD in a given year.

    However, you dont have to see combat in the military to be vulnerable to PTSD, a potentially debilitating condition that can lead to intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, feelings of guilt, a sense of being on edge at all times, being easily startled, anxiety or depression, problems sleeping, as well as other symptoms.

    You may be surprised to discover that PTSD canaffect anyoneany ethnicity, nationality, or agealthough women are 2-3 times morelikely to develop the condition than men. Approximately 3.5% of adults in theU.S. are affected by the condition, and about 7-8 people out of 100 will havePTSD in their lifetime.

    Whats even more surprising is that in somecases, you dont even have to be involved first-hand in a traumatic event. Simplyhearing about a traumatic event or repetitive viewing of violent news storieson television can increase the risk of PTSD.

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