- Compulsive Behavior
What happens when stressed-out vets return from the war theatre and try to resume their lives with business-as-usual? Many, if not most, find that to be impossible, because they are not the same as they were prior to deployment. In fact, many contend with sleepless nights, inability to focus, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
SUICIDE EPIDEMIC: Studies show at least 35% of the Iraq War vets have PTSD, many to the point of being suicidal. Suicide is at a record high: 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers. As there is an average of 10 failed suicide attempts for each actual loss of life, the figures suggest that more than 1,600 serving army and marine personnel tried to kill themselves last year. An estimated 30 percent of soldiers who took their own lives in 2008 did so while on deployment. Another 35 percent committed suicide after returning from a tour of duty.
Two-thirds screened positive for PTSD are not receiving treatment. Those who do are often just medicated without talk therapy. Even so, many still experience attacks seemingly out of nowhere, mimicing their Iraq experiences. Twenty percent of female soldiers report "military sexual trauma." The boundaries between friend and foe collapse.
When PTSD was first discovered in combat veterans in WWI, it was known as SHELLSHOCK, and studies of these vets by Britain's Tavistock Institute led to new discoveries about the breaking points of personalities and how lives could be shattered by the faultlines of unseen wounds lacerating the soft connective tissues of the personality and self-image.
The big question is what happens when today's vet becomes a danger to him or herself or others? How can we detect and avert potential tragedy in this growing population?
How can we best help our friends, families, and fellow citizens who now feel lost and alienated?
Veteran's PTSD is a multidimensional issue involving disabilities, traumatic brain injury, psychophysical regulation, stress-management, depression, grief, dissociation, and perhaps ADHD, T-type behavior, chronic pain management, alcohol and drug use, and compulsive disorders. Soldiers in the 101st Airborne claim most use alchahol and drugs in excess, including Valium and marijuana. That is the short list, as each unique individual will have particular adjustment issues depending on their life and combat histories. Some also have service-related chronic health issues from vaccines, Gulf War Syndrome, DU, etc.
Regardless of which war or conflict you look at, high rates of PTSD in veterans have been found. Throughout history, people have recognized that exposure to combat situations can negatively impact the mental health of those involved in these situations. In fact, the diagnosis of PTSD historically originates from observations of the effect of combat on soldiers. The grouping of symptoms that we now refer to as PTSD has been described in the past as "combat fatigue," "shell shock," or "war neurosis."
Regardless of the war, soldiers involved in a war consistently show high rates of PTSD. If you are a veteran, the National Center for PTSD provides some excellent information on coping with the effects of war. If you are returning from Iraq, information about VA Transition Centers and additional resources are also provided. And, if you are a family member of a veteran, important information is also available pertaining to living with and caring for someone with PTSD.