Effects of PTSD on Military Veterans
The effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on military veterans is similar to the effects of PTSD on civilians but with a few additional complications. Additionally, the types of traumas that a veteran may have experienced are likely different than in the general population. For example, up to 95% of veterans who served in Iraq has seen a dead body and up to 93% have been shot at.
How Many Veterans Suffer from PTSD?
The number of veterans with PTSD varies depending on the operation in which they served. In the latest operations: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is between 11-20% in a given year (PTSD: A Big Problem for Military Soldiers in War Zones).
Veterans and PTSD Effects
The effects PTSD has on veterans is similar to the effects that PTSD has on anyone else. PTSD symptoms in veterans include:
- Persistent re-experiencing of events (such as through flashbacks or dreams)
- Avoidance of anything that reminds the sufferer of the trauma
- Negative changes in thoughts, feelings or perceptions related to the trauma (such as a persistent negative mood)
- Changes in reactivity (such as angry outbursts)
Veterans with PTSD find the disorder can affect their work, family and social relationships drastically, particularly if the veteran is not receiving PTSD treatment.
Also, veterans may seek help less frequently for PTSD than the general population because of the culture of the military. Some of the concerns veterans with PTSD have that may prevent them from getting treatment include:
- Concern over being seen as weak.
- Concern about being treated differently.
- Concern that others would lose confidence in them.
- Concerns about privacy.
- They prefer to rely on family and friends.
- They don't believe treatment is effective.
- Concerns about side effects of PTSD medication treatments.
- Problems with access, such as cost or location of treatment.
- Concerns over effects on their career in the military.
PTSD Treatment for Veterans
PTSD treatment for veterans is the same as the treatment for the general public but veterans may choose to access treatment through U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Centers which may have restrictions on what treatment is offered. Vet Centers typically offer the best evidence-based approaches to PTSD treatment.
Each PTSD program offered in a specific Vet Center is different, but they all offer:
- One-to-one mental health assessment and testing
- One-to-one psychotherapy and family therapy
- Group therapy
PTSD treatment for veterans is conducted or overseen by PTSD specialists. Specialized outpatient PTSD treatment for veterans is available as is specialized intensive inpatient programs for people who are having trouble functioning due to the PTSD.
Some VA medical centers also offer walk-in clinics which will usually allow a veteran to see a mental health provider within the same day.
How to Find PTSD Treatment for Veterans
The goal of the VA is provide quality healthcare to veterans and veterans should not feel shy or ashamed to ask for help with PTSD. PTSD is just an illness, like any other, and needs to be treated by a doctor. If you are diagnosed with PTSD, remember, you are not alone. Many of your fellow veterans know exactly what you are going through.
To find PTSD treatment for veterans:
- Use the VA Facilities Locator.
- Call VA Health Care Benefits line at 1-877-222-8387.
- Find a specialized PTSD program using the VA PTSD Program Locator.
Last Updated: 24 October 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD