The Life of a Veteran with PTSD: Understanding PTSD

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as warfare, a natural disaster, or sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of anything that reminds the person of the trauma.

While PTSD is most often associated with veterans of war, it can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Estimates suggest that up to 3.5% of adults in the United States will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

PTSD is a serious condition that can interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, there are many resources available to help.

Common Causes Of PTSD

Events that can trigger PTSD include serious accidents, abuse or neglect, physical assault, loss of close relatives or friends, witnessing accidents or violent deaths, military combat (war and conflict), diagnosis of a serious medical condition and significant life changes.

Why Veterans Have a Higher Risk of Developing PTSD

Veterans are at a particularly high risk for developing PTSD. This is because they often witness or experience traumatic events during their time in service. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 30 percent of veterans who served in the Vietnam War have had PTSD in a given year.

For many veterans, the memories of their time in service can be very painful. They may have witnessed atrocities or been involved in combat. These experiences can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that can make it hard for them to re-adjust to civilian life.

Veterans with PTSD often struggle with flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. They may feel isolated and disconnected from the people around them. It can be hard for them to hold down a job or maintain relationships. But with treatment, many veterans are able to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.

What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD And When Do They Appear? 

PTSD can manifest itself in different ways dependent on the individual. Symptoms may show up in the first few months after the assault or may not surface for up to ten years. Symptoms are divided into four categories.

  1. Re-experiencing symptoms
    flashbacks of the traumatic event
    frightening thoughts
  2. Avoidance symptoms
    avoiding situations that are associated with a traumatic experience
    avoiding thoughts or feelings
    connected to the trauma
  3. Arousal and reactivity symptoms
    feeling tense
    startling easily
    difficulty sleeping
    sudden angry outbursts
  4. Cognition and mood symptoms
    loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
    negative thoughts about the world or oneself
    feelings of guilt and blame
    difficulty remembering key elements of the traumatic event

The Effects of PTSD on Veterans

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can be triggered by a terrifying event. Veterans with PTSD may relive their trauma through flashbacks and nightmares; they may feel constantly on edge and have difficulty sleeping. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event.

These symptoms can have a profound effect on every aspect of a veteran’s life. Many struggle to keep up with work, school, or other responsibilities. Relationships may suffer as veterans withdraw from loved ones or become easily irritated or angered. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their emotions.

Untreated PTSD can lead to even more serious problems, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Veterans with PTSD need specialized treatment to help them heal and cope with their symptoms.

How Do You Help A Veteran With Ptsd?

There are many ways to help a veteran with PTSD. The most important thing is to be there for them and to listen. Let them know that you are there for them and that you support them. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Educate yourself about PTSD and how it can affect veterans. This will help you understand what they are going through and how to best support them.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help if they are struggling. There are many resources available to help veterans with PTSD, so don’t hesitate to encourage them to seek out help if they need it.
  • Be patient and understanding. It can be difficult for veterans with PTSD to open up, so be patient and understanding when they do.
  • Don t tell them that they re overreacting or being dramatic. If they say they are having trouble sleeping, don t tell them to just get over it and go to bed. Their struggles are very real and can be serious, so don’t belittle their problems.

What Is The Most Common Treatment For Veterans With PTSD?

The most common treatment for veterans with PTSD is psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. In this type of therapy, the veteran talks with a therapist about his or her experiences and feelings. The therapist can help the veteran understand what happened and how it is affecting him or her now. The therapist can also teach the veteran new ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.

Talk therapy is usually done in individual sessions, but it can also be done in group sessions with other veterans who have PTSD. Family therapy, where the family members of the veteran come to therapy together, is another option. Some therapists use eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to help veterans with PTSD. EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements to help people process memories and emotions.

If you are suffering from PTSD, it can be extremely difficult to lead a normal life. It is important to seek help for this condition as soon as possible.

Infographic published in January 2019 via, content updated in September 2022.

The Life of Veteran With PTSD (Infographic)

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