PTSD and Its Effects on Military Families
In 2004 Operation Iraqi Freedom became the deadliest American military conflict since the Vietnam War. Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam have brought heightened awareness of military related PTSD, as well as the relationship and family problems that accompany the disorder. Studies have shown that 11% - 20% of Veterans that served in Iraq and 6% - 11% of veterans that were deployed to Afghanistan have suffered from PTSD. Veterans of operation Desert Storm suffer at a rate of about 10% and Vietnam veteran estimates have been as high as 30% – 50%.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as an anxiety disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or life threatening event that causes intense feelings of fear or helplessness. Symptoms can vary from person to person but can be divided in to three basic categories. Re-experiencing symptoms such as bad dreams, frightening thoughts and flashbacks. Flashbacks, or reliving the trauma over and over can include physical symptoms like sweating and heart palpitations. Veterans who have worked on tanks and machines have reported the smell of diesel fuel can trigger flashbacks of combat. Avoidance symptoms include feeling emotionally numb, guilt, worry or depression. People suffering from these symptoms will also stay away from places and things that remind them of the experience and often have a hard time maintaining close relationships. Hyper arousal symptoms effects include being easily startled, feeling tense at all times, having difficulty sleeping and angry or violent outbursts.
PTSD has long been recognized in military members and recent studies have shown that more military are affected by this mental disorder than the general population. Physicians have documented PTSD like symptoms all the way back to 1678 when he the symptoms of PTSD were first named by Swiss military physicians “‘Nostalgia’ was the term they used. During the Civil War where Dr. Jacob Mendez de Costa studied many Union soldiers and found that they had rapid heart rates, high blood pressure and were easily startled. While PTSD was not yet defined it was clear that these symptoms were caused because of the disturbing things that had been seen. With no treatments available and a stigma that the effected persons were cowards or scared soldiers were often sent home with no supervision. During World War I physicians began calling it “shell shock” or “combat fatigue”, they believed that concussions caused by the impact of shells disrupting the brain caused the symptoms. Treatments included hospitalization and electric shock therapy. By World War II medical personnel noticed that soldiers that were engaged in longer more intense fighting had much higher levels or psychiatric disturbances and started using the term battle fatigue or combat exhaustion. Soldiers were being labeled as fearful and lacking in discipline and PTSD was still not fully...