Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop as a result of shocking or dangerous experiences in life. It is important to understand that PTSD is not a sign of weakness and can happen to anyone, irrespective of the gender.
As per the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 50 percent women and 60 percent men encounter at least one trauma in their lives. PTSD is quite common among people who are serving or who have served in the armed forces. Combat, exposure to life-threatening experiences and constant threat of war can be some of the causes for PTSD and other mental problems in those associated with the armed forces.
Symptoms of PTSD in war veterans
Individuals suffering from PTSD exhibit various symptoms, like distress, anxiety, irritability and sleep problems. According to the VA, PTSD symptoms do not often surface even months or years after deployment during the service.
PTSD symptoms can be classified into four broad categories – traumatic event reminders, negative changes in the thought process, emotional reactions and withdrawal from social activities.
- Traumatic event reminders: Constant reminders of traumatic events include flashbacks, nightmares and distressing thoughts. Such events act as triggers and make a person recall the traumatic experience.
- Negative thought process: PTSD can make a person jittery and can prompt persistent feelings of guilt, fear and shame. A person experiencing these negative emotions often finds it difficult to get positive emotions.
- Emotional reactions: An individual suffering from PTSD may experience anger, irritability, and have trouble sleeping and concentrating. He or she might also be on a constant lookout for danger.
- Withdrawal effect: A patient of PTSD may tend to avoid people, places and situations associated with bad memories. He or she may eventually lose interest in everyday activities and withdraw from family and friends.
PTSD among women war veterans
With an increase in the percentage of women in the armed forces and an equal number serving as war veterans, PTSD equally affects women in the armed forces. As per the VA, among women veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iran, 20 percent have been diagnosed with PTSD. The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS) suggests that as compared to 31 percent male veterans who suffered from PTSD, 27 percent women Vietnam veterans were affected by the disorder.
According to the National Center for PTSD, female war veterans getting high levels of social support from family and friends after the war were less likely to experience PTSD symptoms.
Resources provided by VA
To help patients of PTSD lead a happy life, the VA provides assistance to men and women in active services, war veterans and their families. Coaching into Care is one such resource provided by the VA. It provides coaching services to friends and family members of veterans to help motivate a veteran seek services. In addition, war veterans and their families can also be connected to licensed therapists and social workers who can offer them professional help. The VA has also set up a special Caregiver Support Line and help can also be obtained from the VA Family Caregiver Program.
Under the UT Health Science Center, groups such as the South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience (STRONG STAR) and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) form the world’s big research organizations focused on PTSD treatment. The Department of Defense and the VA helped in the establishment of CAP in 2013 and STRONG STAR in 2008. These organizations help develop and evaluate treatments for combat-related PTSD in active duty officers and veterans.
Time to seek treatment
Fighting mental disorders such as PTSD can be hard for both an active service member and a war veteran. Due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses, it is equally hard for them to seek professional treatment.
If you know a war veteran or anybody suffering from PTSD or any other mental illness, contact Sovereign Health to know about our various mental health facilities. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with our counselors to get more information on various mental health centers.