It’s estimated that up to one-third of military service members suffer from PTSD. PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can develop following a traumatic event. This usually means an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or abuse. People who have seen combat, witnessed death, or experienced a life-threatening situation are at great risk of developing this severely debilitating disorder.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes PTSD in veterans as a significant public health problem. Analysis of veteran mental health studies by the Department of Veteran Affairs estimate that:
- Between 11% and 20% of Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans are diagnosed with PTSD in a given year.
- About 12% of Gulf War Veterans suffer PTSD in a given year.
- Approximately 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
And while PTSD is more prevalent among deployed military service members, non-deployed individuals also experience troublingly high rates of PTSD diagnosis. Over 10% of non-deployed males and over 12% of non-deployed females reported positive screenings for PTSD in a recent study. Military service members are also at risk of other non-combat-related trauma sources such as military sexual trauma (MST). Abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is one of the leading causes of PTSD within the U.S. population as a whole.
PTSD and Suicide Among Military Members and Veterans
The dangers of untreated PTSD should not be trivialized, especially for those who served or are serving in our nation’s armed forces. According to National Center for PTSD research, the association between PTSD and suicide is particularly relevant to military members and veterans.
Studies on the increasing rates of active duty military suicides have shown PTSD to be a statistically relevant factor in military deaths by suicide. Army service members who died by suicide were found to be nearly 13 times more likely to have received a PTSD diagnosis than other service members during the same time period.
Research conducted within veteran populations has shown that veterans with PTSD have a death by suicide rate approximately four times higher than veterans without PTSD. In a study done among male Vietnam War veterans, the suicide rate was six times higher than the rate for non-veteran males in the U.S. during the same time period.
Symptoms of PTSD
If you are experiencing the effects of PTSD, there will be noticeable changes in your life. And if a friend or loved one exhibits the signals listed below, it is a strong indication that they are suffering from this challenging mental health condition. The following signs are known indications of post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Ongoing stress, anxiety, and panic attacks
- Recurrent and unwanted memories of the event
- Nightmares or night terrors
- Hallucinations, confusion, and flashbacks (strong feelings of reliving the event)
- Feelings of hopelessness and extreme pessimism
- Emotional numbness
- Strong reactions to things that remind you of the event
- Avoidance of anything related to the event and of discussions of topics surrounding the event
- Lack of enjoyment of activities that you previously enjoyed
- Failed relationships, detachment, and an inability to feel close to others
- A constant feeling of being on edge, on guard, and easily frightened
- Irritability, trouble concentrating, jitteriness, and insomnia
PTSD Risk Factors Following a Traumatic Event
Those involved in traumatic events are more likely to develop PTSD under certain conditions, many of which are avoidable with the right care and attention. Some individuals have life factors that make them more predisposed to developing PTSD. For example, people with a history of abuse, and those with a family history of stress disorders or depression are more vulnerable to the illness. There are also conditions that can compound the condition or increase the likelihood of its development after the event. These include:
- Receiving little or no mental or physical healthcare following the traumatic event
- Lacking a strong social support group
- Having other sources of life stress
- Possessing poor coping skills or lower levels of psychological functioning
- Seeing a doctor who dismisses or invalidates feelings and experiences
- Being isolated from others or without close personal relationships
- Experiencing financial instability or food or housing insecurity
- Suffering from sleep disorders
- Failing to maintain proper nutrition, health, and physical activity habits
Addressing the early warning signs of PTSD can mitigate further worsening of the condition and prevent it from becoming life-crippling. But individuals who do not receive adequate medical care from the professionals hired to be alert to the symptoms of PTSD are denied the care they need to recover. In these situations, patients may end up needing to file a VA tort claim against the healthcare providers who neglected their duty to treat a serious condition.
Justice for Military Service Members
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a pervasive mental disorder affecting millions of veterans and military service members, especially those who experienced combat. The effects of this condition can lead to damaged relationships, an inability to hold a job, personal pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and a tendency toward substance abuse, self-abuse, and even the abuse of others.
Individuals who are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD should contact a trusted physician as soon as possible. If a VA hospital doctor did not appropriately address medical issues and you or a loved one suffered as a result, you may have grounds for a VA medical malpractice claim. Neglect, dismissal of warning signs of serious conditions like PTSD, or even abuse that occurs in nursing homes has additionally been a serious problems for older veterans. If your situation involves a mistreated military service member, reach out to a law firm with a history of success in veteran abuse and neglect cases to obtain legal guidance.