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What Percentage of Veterans Have PTSD?

By the very nature of military service, veterans face particular risk of experiencing traumatic events and subsequently developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

How many veterans suffer from PTSD? You may be shocked by the answer.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 out of every 100 veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder—a number that is both overwhelming and, unfortunately, not always acknowledged to the degree that it should be.

PTSD is generally characterized by a few distinct categories of symptoms, which mental health professionals use to assess and treat the disorder. These categories, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), capture the kinds of mental health problems that veterans with PTSD experience to differing degrees.

To understand the daily struggles that PTSD can entail or to assess whether you or someone you love might be experiencing this condition, consider the following:

Intrusion of Thoughts, Memories, Flashbacks, and Dreams

This category describes any kind of repeated, unwanted recollections of the traumatic events. These intrusive forms of thinking include memories and dreams, which can be quite vivid. In some cases, individuals with a diagnosis of PTSD experience flashbacks in which they feel as if they are witnessing or reliving the traumatic event again. Similarly, disturbing recollections of injuries or fatalities might repeatedly or unpredictably intrude.

Avoidance of Reminders of Traumatic Events

Because recalling traumatic events can be emotionally distressing, many with PTSD avoid people, places, or things that can remind them of these experiences.

Either intentionally or unconsciously, people with PTSD steer clear of stressors that might trigger the painful thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma.

This avoidance might involve avoiding talk of their military service or even withdrawing from friendships with fellow service members. Post-deployment, veterans may avoid conversations with family members and loved ones about their experiences.

This can also serve as a barrier to seeking treatment.

Alterations in Cognition and MoodTraumatic experiences can produce a complex mix of cognitive and emotional consequences.

Veterans with PTSD may experience some or all of the following disruptions in their moods and thinking patterns:

  • Difficulty remembering certain details of the traumatic event
  • Negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world more generally
  • Inaccurate, self-loathing, or self-blaming thoughts about the cause or nature of the traumatic event, such as “I could have prevented this,” “I should have been able to save him,” or “I should have died instead.”
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, or horror in connection with the negative thoughts and beliefs above
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • An inability to experience positive emotions such as contentment or happiness, even when circumstances would seem to warrant them

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity

In individuals with PTSD, the brain and body experience a continued sense of danger long after the actual threat has passed.

In particular, the amygdala, the region of the brain that processes fear and emotion, remains unusually active, as if life-threatening danger remained present.

Veterans with PTSD may experience an ongoing sense of being on guard, which mental health experts refer to as hypervigilance. This heightened awareness and reactivity to surroundings can translate into the following difficulties:

  • Irritability or a propensity to angry outbursts
  • Reckless, dangerous, or self-destructive behavior
  • Being easily startled
  • Excessive wariness regarding their environment
  • Problems with attention or concentration
  • Difficulty sleeping

Non-Combat Causes of PTSD Among Veterans

While many veterans experience PTSD following a traumatic event during combat, members of the military may also be exposed to other forms of trauma.

One form of trauma that may prompt PTSD is learning of the violent death of a close friend. Additionally, repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of traumatic events can also produce PTSD symptoms.

A military doctor, for instance, might experience cumulative trauma after treating a series of combat wounds. Another potentially traumatic threat to those who serve in the military is sexual assault or harassment.

Trauma stemming from sexual harassment and assault can be no less devastating to veterans than experiences of combat.

Good News

Be encouraged. While people suffering with PTSD experience a diverse array of symptoms, and veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD may face several kinds of challenging thoughts and feelings, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you can lead a normal, whole, healthy and happy life.

Talking with a mental health professional experienced in diagnosing and treating these conditions is the first step.

At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced staff, licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists understand that effective mental health treatment requires a multifaceted, faith-based approach, involving healing of the body, mind, and spirit.

Our unique treatment programs and therapeutic modalities specifically and deeply address all three spheres, offering you your greatest chance for wholeness and transformative growth.

This holistic approach and a combination of key factors makes Honey Lake Clinic’s mental health program different from the others in the country.

You’ll benefit from Honey Lake’s—

  • Integration of a Bible-based approach and sound psychological principles
  • Experienced, compassionate, and highly trained clinical staff
  • Individualized treatment with a low caseload of patients per therapist
  • Practical curriculum focused on decision-making mechanics and skills
  • Emphasis on holistic healing of the mind, body, and spirit

Don’t let your struggles define you. Let Honey Lake Clinic help you regain control of your life and discover lasting transformation. Renewal can start today.