The men and women who serve in the U.S. military sacrifice a lot. In addition to spending months or even years away from family and friends, military service members often live in foreign and hostile regions where they must constantly be on guard. Those who do participate in or witness combat or some other traumatic event may never fully recover.
In recent years, there have been many news stories about the physical and psychological health of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In addition to lost limbs and traumatic brain injuries, many veterans of the recent conflicts also suffer psychological wounds and thousands have been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Just last week, Americans learned of another veteran whose mental health struggles came to light after he opened fire on a U.S. Army base, killing three and injuring 16 before taking his own life. The man was reportedly being assessed for PTSD.
A formal diagnosis of PTSD can take time. This is often especially true for war veterans who want to avoid discussing their experiences or who may fear the stigma attached to a PTSD diagnosis. Symptoms commonly experienced by PTSD sufferers include insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares and intense feelings of shame, fear, anger or guilt which intensify when thinking or talking about the triggering memories or events.
For those veterans who exhibit at least seven out of 20 symptoms associated with PTSD a formal diagnosis is typically made. An official diagnosis is crucial in that it allows an individual the opportunity to file a disability claim and apply for Social Security disability benefits as sufferers are often not able to hold a steady job.
Source: Waco Tribune, "Mental health officials note challenges in diagnosing PTSD," Regina Dennis, April 9, 2014