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It shouldn’t be surprising that soldiers in the battlefield have a much higher rate of post traumatic stress disorder than the rest of us. They’re put in situations where violent conflict, personal injury and the loss of life is a real and constant threat.
Among those deployed to combat zones, anywhere from five to 25 percent develop PTSD, according to the U.S. Army.
Studies have even shown that about as many as 1 in 3 soldiers who were deployed in Vietnam developed PTSD at some time in their life. Contrast that to statistics showing that about 8 percent of women and 5 percent of men experience PTSD over the course of a lifetime.
Some of the most common symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks and difficulty sleeping as a consequence of trying to suppress unpleasant memories. The trauma itself can be so disturbing that some will try to avoid altogether places or situations that bring back painful memories, such as the tenseness they felt. It can also leave a veteran easily startled. In some instances, the symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with the ability to function or perform daily tasks.
Finding out if you have PTSD
Typically, a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider will evaluate a patient and confirm a diagnosis of PTSD if the person has been experiencing all of the following for at least one month:
- At least one recurring symptom
- At least three avoidance symptoms
- At least two hyperarousal (such as being easily startled) symptoms
Also, your symptoms must make it difficult or interfere with your ability to carry out daily tasks, go to classes or work. In extreme cases, it can prevent you from doing these things.
While more and more soldiers are coming forward for treatment, not everyone does. This can be due to a separate medical condition that takes precedence or masks the symptoms. Sometimes symptoms don’t show up for several years.
Then of course, due to the stigma attached to mental disorders, some veterans may feel ashamed of their symptoms and are reluctant to seek help.
Seeking help with PTSD
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides assistance for veterans and the families of those going through hardships related to their military service. These services include:
- Re-adjustment Counseling
- Private and group therapy as well as individual counseling
- Classes for learning how to cope with stress, anger, sleep problems, relationships and PTSD symptoms
- Treatment programs such as cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD
Eligibility for any of the various assistance programs would be based on your circumstances. There are also day hospital programs and inpatient care for those who require more intensive treatment. All VA Medical centers have medical providers who are trained to treat veterans with PTSD. Work with your doctor should to determine which PTSD treatment is best for you.
Also, some veterans are able to receive disability benefits through the VA for PTSD. However, being diagnosed with PTSD won’t automatically qualify you for disability benefits. If you believe you are disabled, work with a VA service representative to make sure you have the necessary documentation required to apply for benefits. Each case will be reviewed on an individual basis.
“Army Standardizes PTSD Diagnosis, Treatment,” 2012, Aug, 3, David Vergun, ARNews
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Reviewed 2013, Jan. 3, Staff Writer, National Institute of Mental Illness, National Institutes of Health
PTSD Treatment Programs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” 2010, Staff Writer, US Dept. Of Veterans Affairs
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on twitter @eileenmbaileyand on Facebook at eileenmbailey.
Published On: March 18, 2013