Post traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can cause acute stress for the sufferer as well as those around him. While anyone who suffers a traumatic event can experience PTSD, it is more common among military members than the civilian population as a whole. PTSD has become more widely recognized with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan though people have been suffering from PTSD for centuries.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 11% to 20% of all Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are suffering from PTSD. This is compared to 10% of Gulf War Vets and 30% of Vietnam Veterans. The differences in how many suffer from PTSD depend on what the Veteran did during the war, the political environment and how the public responded to the Veterans upon their return.
However, there is a stigma attached in the military in being identified as someone with PTSD. As much as the military tries to fight the idea of careers being damaged by seeking help, the stigma remains. Therefore, many service members remain silent about the horrors that are occurring in their own minds and affecting the lives of their families.
While the symptoms themselves can often be devastating to the Veteran, family and friends, there are other related events that can be just as upsetting. There are various outcomes that are common from PTSD, most of which are negative and devastating to both the Veteran and his family. In some cases, there are no outward symptoms while in other more severe cases, the outcomes can be very destructive.
According to Vets Prevail, eighteen Veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. While there is not concrete data relating these suicides to PTSD, it is widely believed that many who choose to take their own lives were suffering from PTSD. Multiple studies have been conducted about the relationship between suicide and PTSD and most have shown that there is more of a connection with PTSD than any other anxiety disorder.
Emotional and Physical Abuse
Anger is a main symptom of PTSD as the sufferer is often hostile about events that have been witnessed or experienced. Uncontrolled anger can lead to both emotional and physical abuse. While in-depth studies have not been conducted, experts have suggested that suicide rates among spouses of PTSD sufferers are increasing as well. In fact, spouses of PTSD sufferers can develop PTSD themselves from the constant hostile environment that is created in the home.
Many who suffer from PTSD feel a constant need to be on guard for their safety and those around them. They may often relive the traumatic event and be unable to distinguish the memory from what is happening in reality at that moment. These symptoms of PTSD can often lead the person to overreact to a situation in order to provide protection and can result in criminal behavior.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 75% of those who have experienced a traumatic event have problems with alcohol abuse. While many use alcohol as a way to self-treat the symptoms of PTSD, many times alcohol exacerbates these symptoms and makes them worse. For example, studies show that sufferers may drink in order to be able to fall asleep. However, alcohol impedes truly restful sleep and may make nightmares more common.
If PTSD sufferers are not effectively managing their symptoms through therapy and medication, unemployment can be an additional result of the disorder. Because of the hyperawareness that many PTSD Vets experience, overreactions to situations and inability to concentrate are common. In addition, problems with substance abuse may make it very difficult to maintain employment.
Post traumatic stress disorder is a condition that has always plagued our Veterans due to their combat experiences. While new treatments are becoming available on an almost daily basis, many still do not seek help due to the stigma attached to the condition. Those who do seek help often have to work for months to achieve the right combination of medication and therapy. It is important to realize that PTSD can never be cured, only managed.
You may wish to read Profiles of Veterans and Families Suffering From PTSD.