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PTSD/Combat Trauma

This guide provides a good starting point when beginning research on post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. But PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, in people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an upsetting traumatic event. However, exposure could be indirect rather than first hand. For example, PTSD could occur in an individual learning about the violent death of a close family. It can also occur as a result of repeated exposure to horrible details of trauma such as police officers exposed to details of child abuse cases.

American Psychiatric Association

Additional Information

Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.

The following statistics are based on the U.S. population:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

Living with someone with PTSD can take a toll on relationships. PTSD doesn't just affect you — it affects everyone around you.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

Mayo Clinic

In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading causes of death, and it is very preventable. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average, one American dies every 12.3 minutes by committing suicide. Men are much more likely to commit suicide than women, with four men to every one woman who commits suicide. About 43,000 Americans die from suicide every year.

 

The Centers for Disease Control nd Prevention reported that, between 1999 and 2014, rates of suicide across the US rose. Over 22 percent of the annual suicides in the United States are veterans of the US Armed Forces. Ninety percent of those who die due to suicide also have a diagnosable mental health disorder at the time of their death.

 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are 23.4 million US military veterans, 2.2 million active service members, and 3.1 million immediate family members. Veterans are more likely than the civilian population to develop specific mental health problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and traumatic brain injury; they are also at higher risk for developing associated substance use disorders. Both of these conditions contribute to an increased risk of suicide among US military veterans.

 

According to the most recent comprehensive report from Veterans Affairs Administration:

  • An average of 20 veterans died every day in 2014 due to suicide.
  • Six of those 20 deaths were recent users of VA hospital services.
  • Although veterans make up 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population,  veteran deaths by suicide makes up 18 percent of all suicide deaths annually.
  • About 67 percent of veteran suicide deaths involve firearms.
  • Approximately 65 percent of veterans who died due to suicide in 2014 were 50 or older.
  • The risk of suicide among male veterans is 19 percent higher compared to adult male civilians.
  • Suicide risk among female veterans is 2.5 times higher than among female civilians.
  • In 2014, veterans who were 18-29 years old had the highest rate of suicides.
  • Rates of suicide among all veterans who use VA services have remained relatively stable, although rates have gone slightly up among women and slightly down among men.
  • Female veterans are more likely to have access to and use firearms, which is associated with their increased risk of suicide.

Although many veterans who seek help, and many who receive it, still struggle with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, or death from suicide, the VA noted that 70 percent of veterans who lost their lives due to suicide had not been connected to healthcare through the VA. Access to evidence-based help from physicians, therapists, and addiction specialists can reduce the risk of suicide by treating underlying causes.

Recovery First

Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Text 838255

Support for deaf and hard of hearing 1-800-799-4889

This free support is confidential and available every day 24/7.

No matter what you are experiencing, there is support for getting your life back on track.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is treated, the easier it is to overcome.

 

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