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What are the Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Military?

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 10/15/2010

Soldiers who see combat face a high risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This article outlines the symptoms associated with PTSD to help identify it if someone is suffering from the disorder.

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    What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

    The occurrence of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms military combat veterans experience is well known. For those who don't know, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, is a negative multi-varied response to a traumatic event. However, for many people, the negative effects subside over time, but this doesn't happen for some people suffering from PTSD1. Sufferers of PTSD can remain in a state of psychological shock. The most common cause of this trauma in men is exposure to combat in war operations. Sadly, PTSD is quite common among soldiers with 1 in 8 eventually receiving the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder,but there may be many more who remain undiagnosed. As soldiers see more combat, their risk of developing PTSD increases. However, there are two types of PTSD which have the same symptoms, but they have different periods of onset. The first type is an immediate onset where symptoms develop quickly after the traumatic event (within a matter of days) while other may experience the delayed onset type2. In this case, people who experience a traumatic event may not experience any problems until months or years later. The next paragraphs will discuss the symptoms associated with PTSD for soldiers.

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    Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Military Personal

    As stated previously, increased exposure to traumatic events increases the risk for PTSD and symptoms may begin to appear immediately or symptoms may appear months or even years later. These symptoms can be manifested in many forms. Specifically, there are three groupings of symptoms for PTSD, and they are related to re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance and emotional numbing, and increased arousal1. Below are key symptoms of each group.

    Symptoms associated with re-experiencing the traumatic event are flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of intense distress when reminded about the traumatic event, memories about the trauma which are jarring and intrusive, and physiological symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and nausea. These symptoms may be especially problematic for deployed soldiers who may be forced to re-experience similar situations which triggered the onset of PTSD symptoms. A lack of ability to escape from traumatic situations may exacerbate these issues and increase risk for actively deployed soldiers. When soldiers come home, these symptoms combine with the other groups of symptoms and can interrupt their daily life significantly.

    Common symptoms associated with avoidance and emotional numbing are avoiding the things that remind you of the trauma, loss of interest in activities and life in general, inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, feelings of detachment from others and emotional numbness, and the sense of a limited future. As soldiers begin to come home and experience PTSD, they may begin to avoid events that they once enjoyed and detach themselves from family and friends as emotional numbing sets in and those close to the sufferer will have a difficult time understanding what the veteran has been through unless they were deployed themselves. For actively deployed soldiers, the sense of a limited future may lead to increasingly risky behavior which may include taking chances they wouldn't have before the onset of PTSD or coping with the disorder through drug use. Drug use may also be employed by returning veterans as a way to cope with the symptoms.

    Finally, symptoms associated with increased arousal include difficulty falling or staying asleep, irratability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, and feeling jumpy and easily startled. For deployed military personal, these symptoms increase risk due to fatigue and also increase the risk of accidents due to the hypervigilance, being easily startled, and outburts of anger. After coming home, the veteran may become difficult to handle and may experience a lack of productivity.

    The symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder among military personal are debilitating, and the incidence of PTSD increases as exposure to combat increases. Symptoms appear as part of three separate groupings: re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance and emotional numbing, and increased arousal. All of these affect the daily lives of combatants and returning veterans. If these symptoms appear to be present, it's best to seek professional treatment.

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