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FAQ's


What is PTSD?

(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

People with PTSD experience three different kinds of symptoms. The first set of symptoms involves reliving the trauma in some way such as becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else. The second set of symptoms involves either staying away from places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people, or feeling numb. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.

PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

PTSD can be treated. Early treatment is important and may help reduce long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not know that they have PTSD or do not seek treatment.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Although PTSD symptoms can begin right after a traumatic event, PTSD is not diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least one month, and either cause significant distress or interfere with work or home life. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have three different types of symptoms: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing symptoms, and arousal symptoms.

Re-experiencing Symptoms

Re-experiencing symptoms are symptoms that involve reliving the traumatic event. There are a number of ways in which people may relive a trauma. They may have upsetting memories of the traumatic event. These memories can come back when they are not expecting them. At other times the memories may be triggered by a traumatic reminder such as when a combat veteran hears a car backfire, a motor vehicle accident victim drives by a car accident or a rape victim sees a news report of a recent sexual assault. These memories can cause both emotional and physical reactions. Sometimes these memories can feel so real it is as if the event is actually happening again. This is called a “flashback.” Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror similar to the feelings they had when the event took place.

Avoidance and Numbing Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms are efforts people make to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may try to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may avoid going near places where the trauma occurred or seeing TV programs or news reports about similar events. They may avoid other sights, sounds, smells, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event. Some people find that they try to distract themselves as one way to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.

Numbing symptoms are another way to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may find it difficult to be in touch with their feelings or express emotions toward other people. For example, they may feel emotionally “numb” and may isolate from others. They may be less interested in activities you once enjoyed. Some people forget, or are unable to talk about, important parts of the event. Some think that they will have a shortened life span or will not reach personal goals such as having a career or family.

Arousal Symptoms

People with PTSD may feel constantly alert after the traumatic event. This is known as increased emotional arousal, and it can cause difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger or irritability, and difficulty concentrating. They may find that they are constantly ‘on guard’ and on the lookout for signs of danger. They may also find that they get startled.

What other problems do people with PTSD experience?

It is very common for other conditions to occur along with PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. More than half of men with PTSD also have problems with alcohol. The next most common co-occurring problems in men are depression, followed by conduct disorder, and then problems with drugs. In women, the most common co-occurring problem is depression. Just under half of women with PTSD also experience depression. The next most common co-occurring problems in women are specific fears, social anxiety, and then problems with alcohol.

People with PTSD often have problems functioning. In general, people with PTSD have more unemployment, divorce or separation, spouse abuse and chance of being fired than people without PTSD. Vietnam veterans with PTSD were found to have many problems with family and other interpersonal relationships, problems with employment, and increased incidents of violence.

People with PTSD also may experience a wide variety of physical symptoms. This is a common occurrence in people who have depression and other anxiety disorders. Some evidence suggests that PTSD may be associated with increased likelihood of developing medical disorders. Research is ongoing, and it is too soon to draw firm conclusions about which disorders are associated with PTSD

PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) in Vets from OIF/OEF Statistics

"As of September 2014, there are about 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million "Vietnam Era Veterans" (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War)

According to RAND, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. 

Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder). 

A comprehensive analysis, published in 2014, found that for PTSD: “Among male and female soldiers aged 18 years or older returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, rates range from 9% shortly after returning from deployment to 31% a year after deployment. A review of 29 studies that evaluated rates of PTSD in those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan found prevalence rates of adult men and women previously deployed ranging from 5% to 20% for those who do not seek treatment, and around 50% for those who do seek treatment. Vietnam veterans also report high lifetime rates of PTSD ranging from 10% to 31%. PTSD is the third most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among veterans using the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.”PTSD and comorbid AUD", Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014; 5: 25–36, Ralevski, et al.

50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.  Out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get "minimally adequate" treatment (RAND study)

19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than  previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News)

7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts in times of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.) recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought, as much as five to eight thousand a year (22 a day, up from a low of 18-a-year in 2007, based on a 2012 VA Suicide Data Report). (See suicide prevention page). Contrary to the impression many media articles give, veteran suicide rates, although definitely higher, are not astronomically higher than civilian rates. See New York Times 2013 article, "As Suicides Rise in US, Veterans are Less of total," by James Dao.

PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010) recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. "Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan." Susan V. Eisen, PhD

Oddly, statistics for veteran tobacco use are never reported alongside PTSD statistics, even though increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.

More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)

According to September 2015 New York Times articles, some branches of the military do not keep fine-grained data, or any data at all on the suicide rates (and this must mean on the mental health as a whole) of their veterans. There are "battalion epidemics" of suicide in the military, which much higher rates of suicide and mental health problems."  (Source: http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html) 

PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) in Vets from OIF/OEF Statistics

"As of September 2014, there are about 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million "Vietnam Era Veterans" (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War)

According to RAND, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. 

Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder). 

A comprehensive analysis, published in 2014, found that for PTSD: “Among male and female soldiers aged 18 years or older returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, rates range from 9% shortly after returning from deployment to 31% a year after deployment. A review of 29 studies that evaluated rates of PTSD in those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan found prevalence rates of adult men and women previously deployed ranging from 5% to 20% for those who do not seek treatment, and around 50% for those who do seek treatment. Vietnam veterans also report high lifetime rates of PTSD ranging from 10% to 31%. PTSD is the third most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among veterans using the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.”PTSD and comorbid AUD", Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014; 5: 25–36, Ralevski, et al.

50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.  Out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get "minimally adequate" treatment (RAND study)

19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than  previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News)

7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts in times of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.) recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought, as much as five to eight thousand a year (22 a day, up from a low of 18-a-year in 2007, based on a 2012 VA Suicide Data Report). (See suicide prevention page). Contrary to the impression many media articles give, veteran suicide rates, although definitely higher, are not astronomically higher than civilian rates. See New York Times 2013 article, "As Suicides Rise in US, Veterans are Less of total," by James Dao.

PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010) recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. "Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan." Susan V. Eisen, PhD

Oddly, statistics for veteran tobacco use are never reported alongside PTSD statistics, even though increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.

More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)

According to September 2015 New York Times articles, some branches of the military do not keep fine-grained data, or any data at all on the suicide rates (and this must mean on the mental health as a whole) of their veterans. There are "battalion epidemics" of suicide in the military, which much higher rates of suicide and mental health problems."  (Source: http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html)