PTSD Facts for Veterans

Are you tired of living trapped by post-traumatic stress disorder? Veterans who experienced or witnessed a traumatic event in the military can live with the effects of PTSD for several years. The debilitating symptoms, which include trauma flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and constantly being “on edge,” infiltrate every aspect of Veterans’ lives and harm their ability to maintain relationships, hold down jobs, and live a normal life.

For some Veterans, the symptoms of PTSD never fully disappear. However, as Military Missions In Action explains below, PTSD is a highly manageable and treatable mental health condition. With the right support, Veterans can greatly reduce their PTSD symptoms and start living life again.

PTSD by the Numbers

According to BetterHelp, 8 percent of all Americans currently live with PTSD. Among Veterans, rates are higher. PTSD rates vary according to military conflicts, with 10 to 18 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans and 17 to 22 percent of Vietnam war veterans experiencing PTSD.

As PTSD is triggered by traumatic experiences, it’s no wonder why so many Veterans develop the mental health disorder. More than nine in 10 Iraq war combat Veterans witnessed dead bodies or were shot at, attacked, or ambushed during deployment. Even Veterans who never face combat can develop PTSD due to sexual trauma or other stressors during military service.

PTSD Support and Treatment

How PTSD is Treated

PTSD is treated using psychotherapy, medication, or both.

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America points out that cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for treating PTSD. CBT emphasizes identifying and changing harmful thought and behavior patterns. Several subtypes of CBT are used to treat PTSD, including cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure, stress inoculation training, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Antidepressants are also used to treat PTSD. These include the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft, as well as the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor Effexor. Medications are most effective when used with psychotherapy.

A Veteran’s PTSD Care Team

Therapy for PTSD is provided by psychologists and clinical social workers. These professionals make up the core of a Veteran’s PTSD care team.

Although clinical social workers and psychologists aren’t medical doctors, these professionals receive specialized training on psychosocial disorders like PTSD and are up-to-date on the most current research on PTSD treatments. In their training, clinical social workers and psychologists learn not only how to recognize mental health disorders, but also how to treat them in order to restore functioning to patients’ lives.

As neither social workers nor psychologists are authorized to prescribe medications, Veterans who use medication as part of their PTSD treatment also need a psychiatrist or other medical doctor on their care team.

Since PTSD often goes hand-in-hand with substance use disorders, Veterans benefit from having an addiction counselor on their emotional wellness team. An addiction counselor may be a social worker or another counseling professional. When looking for addiction counselors, search for professionals with a graduate-level education and either state licensure or third-party certification in addiction counseling.

Veterans with families should also add a family counselor to their care team. While Veterans bear the brunt of a PTSD diagnosis, PTSD affects the entire family. Family counseling from a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or a social worker or psychologist with training in family therapy helps families manage the effects of PTSD on their relationships.

Healthy Coping Skills for PTSD

Self-management is an equally important part of a Veteran’s PTSD treatment. In addition to avoiding drugs and alcohol and looking after their physical health, mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises reduce PTSD symptoms.

It’s also helpful to ensure the family home provides a place of refuge and positivity. Disorganized, messy and chaotic spaces can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety or depression. Talk to your family about necessary changes that can help like making a point to clean the home, reorganizing overflowing spaces and letting in fresh air from time to time. As small as these actions seem, they can make a difference in reducing negativity and what seems overwhelming.

Veterans and families of Veterans with PTSD should also get involved in PTSD support groups. Living with PTSD is a profoundly isolating experience, and support groups provide a safe place to share experiences and discover resources for living with PTSD.

Trauma is life-changing, but it doesn’t have to rule a Veteran’s life. New PTSD research is constantly emerging, and professionals are learning new ways to help Veterans heal from this debilitating disorder. Whether you’re a Veteran with PTSD or know someone who is, help is out there — all you have to do is ask for it.

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Author: Ed Carter


Military Missions in Action is dedicated to assisting Veterans with disabilities, members of the Armed Forces, and their families.

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