Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects far too many of our veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been documented that it also affects far too many of their spouses and children. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing events that include war, as well as natural or man-made disasters, physical assault and torture -- where the person may have experienced intense feelings of helplessness, fear, or horror. People with PTSD are haunted by events that happened in their past.
Estimates are that about 70% of people will experience a traumatic event in their life, but not all will develop PTSD. According to a report published by Rand Corporation in 2008, PTSD has affected approximately one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Persons with PTSD are likely to experience:
- considerable distress when confronted with reminders of the events
- intrusive thoughts about the event
- vivid flashbacks where they feel as though they are reliving the event
- upsetting dreams and nightmares
- a sense of being easily frightened or startled
They may try to cope with their symptoms by:
- avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the event
- withdrawing and/or feel estranged from loved ones
- having difficulty experiencing emotions and may come to believe that their future will be cut short.
Additionally, PTSD sufferers are:
- at high risk for developing other psychological disorders, such as depression
- more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as alcohol and substance abuse
- are six times more likely than persons without PTSD to commit suicide
PTSD has been associated with unemployment and a work productivity loss of approximately US $3 billion annually.
Untreated, PTSD exacts an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society. The importance of developing effective treatments that rapidly treat sufferers of PTSD thus cannot be overemphasized. But people with PTSD often do not recognize that they are having problems and generally do not seek treatment on their own.
Thus, if you have a loved one who has been exposed to a trauma such as combat service in OIF/OEF, it is important to encourage them to seek help. In some cases, you may need to seek out a health care specialist for them, make the initial appointment, and take them to it.