Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen to anyone as the result of a traumatic event. The term first began to be used, though, with veterans who had seen combat and suffered mental health issues as a result. During November, special attention should be given to PTSD statistics, particularly to how many veterans have PTSD.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the first World War officially ended. Known as Armistice Day, it became a holiday dedicated to reflecting on the heroism of those US service men and women who died in the service of their country. In 1954, the holiday’s name was changes to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans who served in all wars. Each year on November 11, we pay our respects to all those who have served in the military.
PTSD in Veterans
The PTSD diagnosis in an individual who has experienced trauma originated from observations as to how combat affected the mental health of soldiers. What is now known as PTSD has been called “combat fatigue,” “war neurosis,” and “shell shock.”
High rates of PTSD have been found in veterans who have served in all recent wars and conflicts. It has been recognized and acknowledged throughout history that exposure to combat situations negatively impacts the mental health of those involved. Beyond the conflicts and battles that are dangerous and stressful, other factors such as politics about the war, where the war is being fought and the type of enemy being faced can also affect the service person’s mental health.
The number of veterans with PTSD varies by the era in which they served, according to the Veterans Administration. Those veterans who served in the Vietnam War are still suffering from PTSD almost 50 years later. Approximately 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD at some point in their lives. New findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study show that about 271,000 veterans who served in Vietnam still suffer from PTSD and other major depressive disorders.
PTSD is prevalent in about 12% of those veterans who served in the brief Gulf War, or Desert Storm, in the early 1990s. Of the veterans who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, between 11% and 20% experience PTSD.
A study of National Guard soldiers who served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan looked at their rates of PTSD 3 months and 12 months post-deployment. The result was a PTSD rate of 9% to 31% overall, with the persistence of symptoms a year after returning from duty in a war zone. There was also a high rate of alcohol misuse found in this study, indicating that the service men and women were attempting to manage their PTSD symptoms with a risky form of self-treatment.
Additionally, a 2020 survey found the 83% of all US veterans as well as active duty service men and women have experienced PTSD since the 9/11 attack, as a result of their military service. PTSD was the second-most reported severe mental injury sustained during service, after sleep issues, in the veterans and active duty service men and women participating in the survey.
Treatment for Veterans With PTSD
There are many treatment options available for veterans who are suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Processing the trauma and beginning the healing process is the goal of experiential therapies such as art therapy and adventure therapy. These types of therapies work together with talk therapy, to make the experience even more effective.
Other coping mechanisms that can be helpful for veterans with PTSD include mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the state of being aware of and concentrating on the present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness meditation can involve simple breathing exercises, focusing on a singular thing in the present. The act of mindfulness can reduce stress as well as anxiety and depression.
Peer support groups can also help the veteran who is processing trauma from service in a war. Finding others who have shared the same or similar military-related trauma can help an individual feel more comfortable talking about the traumatic events they have experienced. Being able to open up freely can enable the veteran to work through the intense emotions that are associated with their trauma.
Seeking professional mental health treatment is an effective way to learn healthier coping mechanisms, overcome any substance use issues that may be associated with the PTSD and develop the skills for a healthier, more fulfilling life after military service.
Mental Health and Addiction Help in Tennessee
If you are a veteran struggling with the symptoms of PTSD or other mental health issue, we can help. At our residential, long-term and outpatient treatment centers, Cumberland Heights provides top-notch mental health care to those dealing with mental illnesses, especially those co-occurring with substance use disorders. Our dedicated staff members will walk with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery, helping you to rewrite your story.
At Cumberland Heights, we’ve been changing lives since 1966. To learn more about our services, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team.