It is estimated that U.S. military veterans are nearly 4x as likely to develop PTSD as someone who didn’t wear the uniform.
According to the VA’s published statistics, the number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD each year.
- Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD each year.
- Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that some veterans develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as combat, a natural disaster, car accident/convoy bombing, or sexual assault. Military Sexual Trauma (or MST) includes any sexual harassment or sexual assault while in the military. MST can happen to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
Most veterans start to feel better after a few weeks or months. But for some veterans, PTSD symptoms may start later, or they may come and go over time.
If it’s been longer than a few months and thoughts and feelings from the trauma are upsetting you or causing problems in your life, you may have PTSD.
What do PTSD symptoms look like?
Each veteran experiences symptoms of PTSD in their own way – symptoms are as unique as the individual. There are four typical symptoms that point to a PTSD diagnosis:
- Flashbacks are nightmares or memories of the traumatic event and can come back at any time or can be triggered by something that you see, hear, or even smell. These can be so intense that you feel like you are going through the event all over again and can be just as scary as the first incident.
- Avoidance is a coping mechanism that you may consciously or unconsciously use to stay away from even the possibility of encountering situations or people that might trigger your symptoms. This includes avoiding talking or thinking about the event, staying away from crowds, or feeling anxious when driving or in a car.
- Hyperarousal means you feel jittery or can fly off the handle for minor things. Some veterans describe being “always on alert” and needing to always carry a weapon. You may be startled by noises and struggle to get restful or deep sleep.
- Self-medicating is one way that veterans can subconsciously cope with these overwhelming feelings. Excessing smoking, abusing drugs or alcohol, or risky sexual behavior are all ways of avoiding the invasive feelings from the trauma.
Even if you have been diagnosed outside the VA, you will still need to see a VA mental health provider to confirm your diagnosis. The VA defines a PTSD diagnosis as symptoms related to a traumatic event that meet all of the following criteria:
- The trauma occurred during your service, and
- You can’t function as well as you once could because of your symptoms, and
- A doctor has diagnosed you with PTSD.
The VA considers a traumatic event to be suffering a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, or sexual violation, or being threatened with injury, sexual assault, or death.
Accessing help outside the VA
Veterans have told us how difficult and cumbersome it is to navigate the VA system, making a tough situation even more stressful.
There are options outside of the VA, many at no charge to you, that can provide the care and attention you need within days, and not weeks. We offer clinical research studies, private practice support with physicians who are veterans themselves, as well as ketamine treatment programs.
Call our office at 770-817-9200 to learn how you can get started on living the next phase of your life to the fullest today!