NARSAD, one of the world’s leading mental health research charities, tackles PTSD in the military
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a violent or terrifying event, such as sustaining a combat injury, seeing a friend injured or killed, or finding dead or seriously injured civilians. The more severe the trauma, the more serious the outcome will be for the person who develops PTSD.
The Rand Corporation recently estimated that 20 percent of returning soldiers, or 300,000 in all, have PTSD or major depression, and new statistics from the Department of Defense reveal a 50 percent jump in PTSD in 2007 over the prior year. The increase is linked to a variety of factors – the recent troop build-up, an increase of violence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the extension of tour lengths, and the increase in troops who are serving second, third or fourth tours of duty.
Signs and Symptoms
People with PTSD have persistent flashbacks and nightmares. They may feel emotionally numb, especially towards people they were once close to, and easily become irritable, more aggressive or even violent. Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD, or experiences it at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms last more than a month. Some people recover within six months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition may be chronic.
Only an estimated 25-50 percent of soldiers with PTSD seek treatment, for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fear that it will hurt their military careers. Untreated, people with PTSD are likely to have problems functioning at work and in relationships; are at high risk for depression and substance abuse; and could become suicidal. Effective treatments for PTSD are available, including medication and psychotherapy. Research is yielding new understanding of the disorder and improved treatments.
For information on the latest developments in research on PTSD and other mental health disorders, visit www.narsad.org or call 800-829-8289.