Understanding More Than Just How Many Veterans Have PTSD
October 22nd, 2020 by Akbar Mohammad
Veterans with PTSD: Knowing the Disorder and What You Can Do About It
Not that many people know how many veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a long-standing mental health crisis that does not seem to garner the amount of attention needed to address it successfully. That is why most are shocked when they find out the staggering number of those who suffer from the debilitating condition.
Fortunately, there are veteran support groups like Guards Down, who not only provide information about how many veterans have PTSD, but can also help with its treatment. Those brave men and women deserve all our help to heal and thrive as they return home from their courageous service. It is only when we are able to take care of every citizen can we truly say that we have a healthy nation.
To help you not only find out how many veterans have PTSD but also understand the plight of those suffering from it, here is our in-depth look into the causes and effects of PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental condition that occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. In the case of our veterans, that means being subjected to potentially violent aspects of military service and the horrors of war. These men and women in uniform go through such great stress, that they are ultimately unable to cope with it.
Ultimately, their brains and bodies try to make up for it by being in an almost constant state of fight-or-flight. As a result, this ordeal causes them to have intense physical and emotional reactions whenever they have memories of their experiences. Those troubling glimpses of the past are usually triggered by anxiety-inducing situations that trigger memory.
The Symptoms of PTSD
Aside from re-experiencing the traumatic event in the form of intrusive and distressing recollections (e.g., flashbacks and nightmares), there are two main symptoms of PTSD:
- Being emotionally numb and avoiding the places, people, and activities that remind those who suffer from it of their trauma
- Feeling increased arousal, like having difficulty sleeping and concentrating, or being easily irritated and angered.
High Prevalence of PTSD Among Military Personnel
As we already mentioned, many among our troops have PTSD. But how bad is the situation, really? Let us dig deeper into the numbers.
Diagnoses of PTSD Among US Troops
Let us first start with how many veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. According to a report by a nonprofit research organization Cohen Veterans Bioscience, more than 138,000 new PTSD diagnoses were made among the U.S. troops who were deployed from 2000 to mid-2015. As for the troops who were not yet deployed, 40,000 new PTSD diagnoses were made.
What Is the Average Percentage of Post-Deployment PTSD Prevalence in the US Infantry Personnel?
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 10 to 20 percent of US troops return home with symptoms of PTSD. So, how many soldiers is that, exactly? Since 9/11, over 2.7 million American men and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those who make it back, 270,000 to 540,000 will most likely suffer from PTSD.
How Many Adults in the US Have a Diagnosis of PTSD?
Sadly, our veterans are not the only ones who can be stricken with this debilitating condition. Anyone can experience PTSD. There are many traumatic events other than war that can instigate its occurrence. Those include childhood or domestic abuse, physical or sexual assault, or having a life-threatening accident. As a result, 3.7 percent of Americans who are 13 years and older are diagnosed with PTSD every single year.
PTSD is a serious condition, but that does not mean it cannot be treated. There are several ways to do so.
Treating PTSD starts with identifying it first. There are eight criteria required to diagnose someone with the disorder:
- Being exposed to the traumatic event
- Re-experiencing it
- Avoiding the things, places or persons that trigger the symptoms
- Having negative thoughts or feelings, like feeling isolated or losing interest in activities, which began or got worse after the traumatic event
- Feeling increased arousal
- Experiencing these symptoms for a month or more
- Having these symptoms cause those who suffer from them to feel distress or become functionally impaired
- Verifying that the symptoms are not caused by medication, illegal substance abuse, or illness.
Here are six ways to treat PTSD, and each approach can work differently, depending on the person:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The aim of CBT is to improve the patient’s symptoms, teach him or her the skills to deal with his or her trauma, and restore his or her self-esteem. These are achieved by changing the thought patterns that are disrupting the patient’s life. That is done by talking to him or her through personal trauma. Depending on the situation, group or family therapy would be more appropriate.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Characterized by a 12-week treatment course consisting of weekly sessions that last 60 to 90 minutes, CPT is a PTSD therapy where the patient talks to the therapist about the traumatic event and how his or her thoughts about it have affected his or her life. Doing so helps further examine those thoughts and find applicable solutions about new, healthy ways to live with and get past the trauma.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
This is the type of therapy administered to PTSD sufferers who avoid the things that remind them of their trauma. The therapist teaches them breathing techniques that help ease their anxiety whenever they think about what happened, asks them to make a list of the things they have been avoiding, teaches them how to face those things, and later asks them to recount their traumatic experience before going home and listening to a recording of themselves. The therapy itself is made up of 15 sessions with each lasting 90 minutes.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
In EMDR, instead of telling the therapist about their traumatic experience, patients are asked to concentrate while watching the therapist move his or her hand, flash a light, or make a sound. The goal is to make them think about something positive while remembering their trauma in order to dissociate the activity with the memory. This will take three months of weekly sessions.
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
A type of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, SIT is a solo or group PTSD therapy where patients are taught massage, breathing techniques, and other ways they can relax, preventing them from experiencing habitual negative thoughts. They will not be required to talk about their trauma. The sessions last up to three months.
The brains of those who suffer from PTSD process threatening stimuli differently because the balance of the chemicals therein, or neurotransmitters, have been disrupted. To help them feel more normal again, they can be prescribed medication that helps them stop thinking about and reacting to their trauma, prevent them from having nightmares and flashbacks, and have a much more positive outlook on their life. Such medication includes Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Venlafaxine (Effexor).
Comorbidity of PTSD
Having PTSD is a serious matter, since suffering from it also means that you could develop other serious mental conditions like depression and chronic anxiety.
For example, 78 percent of those diagnosed with PTSD have also experienced depression at some point in their life. This is worth pointing out, because having depression puts those who suffer from it at a higher risk of committing suicide. In the U.S. alone, 17 veterans commit suicide every single day.
PTSD can be a complicated condition, exacerbated by the physical effects of prolonged stress on the body. It’s a physical, emotional and mental condition that develops as a form of a coping mechanism to a traumatic event that we are unable to handle and whose effects and memories still cause us distress.
Undoubtedly, the pain of those who suffer from it can be beyond the grasp of most people. The key to dealing with it is to understand it first and then to seek help. By knowing what to look for and how PTSD manifests, you can not only help those in need but also get better if you are yourself living with the condition. Visit our site for more info on health and wellness!