Effects of PTSD on Service Members
PTSD is a disorder that arises when someone has been exposed to a dreadful event. For instance, during the war, service members undergo many traumatic events such as watching others get hurt or killed, killing or even hurting others, getting severe physical injuries, and even suffering from traumatic brain injury. These individuals exhibit four different symptom types. First, they re-experience the events they witnessed having nightmares, flashbacks, and even intrusive thoughts. Second, these members practice avoidance. They try to avoid the reminders of the traumatic events. These could be people, emotions, conversations, or places. Third, these victims suffer from emotional numbing, which indicates that they have reduced emotional experiences and show less interest in things that excited them before. Lastly, the victims experience arousal symptoms, and namely being alert, having difficulty concentrating, or being easily startled or jumpy. These symptoms make it difficult for their social relationships to prosper with family or friends, thus making a great number of these people get divorced, become drug addicts, have suicidal ideations, or even become homeless.
PTSD and Divorce among Service Members
There is a high divorce rate among service members with PTSD due to their inability to keep stable relationships as a result of being less disclosive and expressive to their partners. This nature always triggers many conflicts. Sexual dysfunction also tends to be frequent among these service members. This leads to diminished satisfaction and adjustment that result in relationships that are not functioning, which translates into higher rates of divorce and separation. A research done on service members who returned from Southeast Asia revealed that approximately 38% of the veterans who had PTSD had their marriages failing within the first six months after their return. Veterans without PTSD stay in their relationships longer than those veterans with PTSD. The same study claimed that veterans with PTSD are three times more likely to divorce two or more times than those who had no PTSD.
Most families with service members who have PTSD face divorce because of the family violence and the physical and verbal aggression. Female partners report a higher violence rate than the male partners. An average of 42% of service members with PTSD get divorced due to the violence in their relationships every preceding year. The severity of the PTSD symptoms is also related to the magnitude of the family problems. Studies also show aggravated stress among partners of veterans with PTSD. This could lead these partners to develop their own mental illnesses, since there are multiple obstacles in handling their partners PTSD symptoms. Active management of these PTSD service members with assistance on how to tackle various family issues could save most marriages and relationships.
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PTSD and Drug Addiction among Service Members
Drug use among service members with PTSD is a growing problem in the United States. There are many reasons why drug abuse is common among service members. These people undergo stressful situations from the time they are deployed and many suffer from psychological and physical scars from the traumatic events they had experienced. Drug abuse could be a reason for self-medication to find solutions to the problems easier. Getting PTSD increases the risk of developing a drinking or drug problem. Over time, the overuse of these substances leads to addiction and even later to a substance abuse disorder. Studies have shown a strong relationship between PTSD and drug addiction among service members in both men and women. Statistics show that for every ten service members with PTSD, more than two also have a substance abuse disorder. These service members that have survived the war tend to be binge drinkers or turn to drug use to combat their bad memories.
Apart from this, statistics indicate a doubled number of nicotine smokers among those with PTSD when compared to those without PTSD i.e. for every ten service members with PTSD, six of them smoke, while for every ten service members without PTSD, three of them smoke. A study that involved 600 veterans who were deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq tested these people for alcohol and drug abuse. It was discovered that 39% were abusing alcohol and 3% were drug addicts. Despite the treatment, most service members prefer not to seek any help because of the beliefs they hold. A vast majority of them are hesitant to seek treatment due to the fear of being treated differently or the belief that they will be viewed as weak. Others also fail to get treatment for the problems with access to it, as, for example, the costs to be incurred or the location of the treatment services.
PTSD and Homelessness among Service Members
There is a high homelessness rate among service members compelled by various reasons such as divorce, poverty, or drug addiction. Remarkably, 40% of the homeless populations in California are Service members. PTSD symptoms are evidently a factor rendering a vast majority of these veterans homeless, since most of them already have PTSD. The first large-scale study of veterans conducted in 2012 discovered that more than a half of the homeless veterans had been diagnosed with the condition long before homelessness. Many veterans developed the disorder roughly three years after the discharge from their duties.
PTSD exacerbates the issue of homelessness due to the fact that it is challenging for these individuals to sustain good relationships or keep a job. Homeless people start to suffer even more, which brings them to a vicious cycle of never-ending issues and makes it extremely difficult to live a normal life. Therefore, PTSD and homelessness are closely interrelated in three major aspects. First, suffering from PTSD can lead to homelessness as it was discussed above. Second, a traumatic event experienced by vagrants as well as the trauma of not having a home may also result in PTSD. Such events as losing job, family connections, home, or a stable shelter can cause PTSD. Numerous stressors and the uncertainty of where to get food and safe shelter can cause the stress disorder or aggravate it in those people who already have it. Finally, being homeless can be a breaking point for those who have previously underwent a traumatic event. This vicious cycle makes veterans homeless for long, since they are tackle the problem and earn their living.
PTSD and Suicide among Service Members
There is an increasing number of suicide attempts among service member returnees with PTSD related to the feeling of hopelessness. While most studies support the claim that PTSD symptoms lead to a higher chance of committing suicide, the rest hypothesize that other psychiatric conditions are the ones related to the multiple suicide attempts. A study that involved an analysis of survey data from National Comorbidity showed a strong association between suicide and PTSD among many other anxiety disorders. The same research showed that PTSD respondents were at a higher risk of attempting to commit a suicide after other mental disorders and physical illnesses were controlled.
Service members undergo many traumatizing events during the war and after these events, they are still prone to intrusive thoughts and even enormous sense of guilt over what they did or experienced. These thoughts could overpower the emotional coping capacities rendering them hopeless and resulting in a severe depression. This depression then becomes a causative factor for committing a suicide. A study conducted on OIF/OEF veterans showed that veterans with PTSD showed a three times higher chances of experiencing hopelessness and suicidal inclinations compared to the veterans who had no PTSD.
It is quite challenging to measure the exact number of suicides or attempts and intervene, but what is clear is that individuals who have manageable suicidal thoughts can benefit from PTSD therapies, cognitive processing therapy, and prolonged exposure. These therapies aid in reducing the suicidal ideations and this can be maintained over years with the follow-up periods. The effects of PTSD treatment also show positive results in individuals who actively participate in it and complete the two therapy treatments.
PTSD has become the main cause of problems affecting many service members on their arrival home. Some of them do not manage to keep relationships and they get divorced and separated from their families, some are also homeless, and others have attempted to commit a suicide mostly successfully. These service members undergo many troubles, so most of them are not willing to live, since they cannot keep their jobs or families. A proper treatment is available but still most of these service members do not seek it due to various reasons. These are people who devoted their lives to protecting others. Hence, there is an urgent need for the community to diagnose and care for these individuals to protect them from the many misfortunes they may later experience. Supporting their integration into their families, offering them mentorship, and helping them handle the challenges of transitioning and adjustment will be the best steps to help these service members.