Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing traumatic life-threatening events such as natural disasters, terrorist activity, serious accidents, assault and military exposure.
All survivors of a traumatic event will be affected in some shape or form, but most individuals are able to fall back into their normal patterns of everyday life. Those who develop PTSD do not. People struggling with PTSD experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, depression, insomnia and paranoia that eventually interfere with their ability function and live daily life.
Is It Common for Soldiers Returning from Iraq to Develop PTSD?
Many soldiers returning home from Iraq are struggling to return to their daily lives and schedules. PTSD and other mental health disorders are common among veterans of the Iraq War for reasons such as the following:
- Serving in Iraq required constant vigilance. Many soldiers were on guard 24/7, because the threat of injury or death was present at all times and not just during combat. The mental stress this causes is traumatic and can lead to changes in how the brain functions and manages daily life.
- It was common to serve multiple tours of duty in the Iraq War.
- Witnessing or being victim to maliciousness, violence, injury and death are traumatic.
- Returning home requires a huge adjustment. Many soldiers go from feeling powerful, driven, and a part of something only to return home and feel lost or useless.
Why Is It Difficult to Treat PTSD in Returning Soldiers or Veterans?
Soldiers are used to being strong, powerful and respected. They do not want to acknowledge PTSD symptoms or the need for professional help. Other soldiers do not want to be diagnosed with PTSD, because it can interfere with their chances of landing a government or federal job.
Many returning soldiers are misdiagnosed, as PTSD requires treatment, and many veterans’ benefits programs would rather take the inexpensive route and prescribe antidepressants. Many soldiers return home with disability, but, because PTSD is not a visible wound, it does not get the attention or treatment it deserves.
What Are the Consequences of Untreated PTSD in Soldiers or Veterans?
When PTSD is misdiagnosed or left untreated, the symptoms will worsen and impair a person physically, mentally and emotionally. Common consequences of untreated PTSD include the following:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Emotional instability potentially leading to violence, aggression, rage or abuse
- Memory and cognition problems
- Social anxiety
- Relationship problems leading to family discord or parenting troubles
- Substance abuse