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PTSD follows veterans' home

Post-traumatic stress disorder can afflict any person who has undergone a trauma or frightening event. PTSD has evolved into one of the most significant veterans' issues.

Shocking events can lead to PTSD when a person is exposed to trauma as a victim or witness, received serious injuries, went through a long-lasting or very severe trauma, believed there was danger, felt helpless and had a severe reaction such as crying, shaking, vomiting or feeling apart from the surroundings.

Combat obviously includes horrible and life threatening experiences including shootings and death which can lead to PTSD. Combat situation also has other unique factors which contribute to PTSD such as the political situation surrounding the war, its location and the type of enemy.

PTSD symptoms include suffering re-experiencing symptoms, avoiding situations that provide reminders of the event, suffering negative feelings such as fear guilt or shame or losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyable or feeling keyed up or hyperarousal. PTSD can lead to substance abuse, depression, employment problems and relationship difficulties that can lead to divorce.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, approximately 11 to 20 out of every 100 veterans who served suffered PTSD in a given year. During Operation Desert Storm, about 12 out of 100 veterans have PTSD in a year.

Approximately 15 out of 100 Vietnam War veterans were currently diagnosed with PTSD when the most recent study, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, was conducted in the late 1980s. Estimates indicate that 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans have suffered PTSD during their lives.

Military Sexual Trauma has also caused PTSD. MST is comprised of any sexual assault or trauma occurring during military service. Reports from veterans who use Veterans Administration healthcare indicate that 23 percent of them reported sexual assault during their service. Approximately 55 percent of women and 38 percent of men experienced sexual harassment while in the military.

Psychotherapy involving cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy is used to treat PTSD. Medications such as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor and Prazosin have also been effective.

Assuring that the VA provides treatment for war-related injuries such as PTSD may require legal assistance to navigate the application and appeal process. Seeking legal advice can help assure that veterans' rights to counseling and long-term medical care are protected.

Source: Veterans' Administrtion National Center for PTSD, "How Common is PTSD?," Accessed Nov. 16, 2015

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