After going through or witnessing a life-threatening event, it’s normal to feel on edge, experience troubling memories of the event or have difficulties sleeping. If these symptoms of stress persist for more than a month, cause you significant distress or interfere with your personal or professional life, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Examples of traumatic experiences veterans might have while in the military include exposure war zone deployment and training accidents as well as exposure to combat, disaster and mass violence. Additionally, non-combat related trauma veterans might experience include military sexual trauma (MST), domestic violence, abuse, exposure to suicide, sudden death of a loved one, kidnapping or imprisonment, transportation accidents and more.
Approximately seven out of every 100 veterans, or 7% of veterans, will have PTSD at some point during their lifetime. Rates of PTSD vary depending on whether a veteran has deployed, military occupation or specialty, other mental health conditions, politics around the war, location of where the war is fought and type of enemy fought. PTSD diagnosis is more common among women veterans.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans who use VA healthcare are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, and therefore receive treatment, than those who use community health services, likely because the VA screens every veteran for both PTSD and MST. One reason more female veterans are diagnosed with PTSD is that women in the military report MST more frequently than men.
The four types of PTSD symptoms include:
- Reliving or re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
- Experiencing negative thoughts or emotions
- Hypervigilance, or feeling “on-edge”
Not all veterans who have experienced traumatic events will go on to develop PTSD. Learn more about the difference between trauma and PTSD here.