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The Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans Returning Home from War

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The United States is a country which prides itself on being a patriotic land. On holidays such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day, our past and current soldiers are the country's focus of attention. Veterans are looked upon with great admiration and are considered modern-day heroes. However, there is a tendency to forget about these heroes when those holidays have past: especially the veterans who have already returned home. When soldiers return home from war, their whole lives have changed. The United States has seen the deployment of over 1,000,000 soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, and unfortunately, many of them who are returning home from war have great difficulties readjusting to civilian life (Swofford, 2012). It is reported that approximately eighteen veterans commit suicide every day. Suicide has been a permanent solution to what could have been a treatable problem. These soldiers are thought to have been suffering from a combat related illness called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD is a mental disorder that people who have experienced a traumatic event sometimes develop. To understand the impact of PTSD among veterans returning home from war, one must understand what the symptoms, effects, and solutions of PTSD are (Satel, 2011).


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the symptoms of PTSD must be present for at least thirty days and impair an individual's ability to function in everyday life. The symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories: re-experiencing the event, hyper arousal, and avoidance. Re-experiencing the event may involve symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares about the event. Hyper arousal involves symptoms such as being easily startled, anxiety filled, and disturbances in sleeping patterns. Avoidance symptoms may include avoiding certain situations or places that may trigger memories (Satel, 2011).


PTSD has been associated with a number of negative effects for veterans and their families. It is not unusual for someone who suffers from PTSD to suffer from other conditions, such as depression. It is also not uncommon for an individual to have a substance and alcohol abuse problem. For them, the abuse is a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, the substance and/or alcohol abuse leads to health, relationship, and employment problems. Suffering veterans may verbally and physically abuse their partners and children. Alcohol and substance abuse has caused many veterans to lose their jobs and many are left without homes. This has resulted in a number of suicides (Eckford, et al., 2012).

Possible Solutions

Fortunately, there is help for individuals and their families who are suffering from PTSD. There are many forms of therapy that have been proven successful.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

One promising treatment for PTSD is Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE). This type of therapy is intended to help decrease stress that is related to the trauma experienced by the client. Many times when a person has experienced a traumatic event, they will avoid situations, thoughts, or feelings that will trigger the distress that they have related to the trauma that they have experienced. During PE therapy the therapist will help the client approach the situations, thoughts, and feelings in a way that will help diminish their ability to cause the distress (NCPTSD, 2011).

PE therapy also involves a four step process. Step one involves educating the client about the treatment that they will receive. The client will learn about common trauma actions related to PTSD. The goals of the treatment will also be discussed with the client (NCPSD, 2011).

Step two focuses on controlling breathing. When a person is under distress, their breathing pattern changes. PE therapy helps a client learn to control their breathing. Learning to control breathing will help them relax; this will help them immediately in stressful situations.

Step three involves the clients practicing skills in real world situations. This is referred to as vivo exposure. During vivo exposure, the client will approach real world situations, in a safe environment, that they have been avoiding. This will be done repeatedly until the client's stress level goes down, and the client feels that they have control over the situation (NCPTSD, 2011).

Step four gives the client the opportunity to talk through the trauma. This is called imaginal therapy. During imaginal therapy, the client talks about the trauma repeatedly until the client feels that they have more control over their thoughts and feelings that they have about the trauma. The memories will become less frightening (NCPTSD, 2011).

PE therapy sessions usually last ninety minutes, and the client usually attends eight to fifteen sessions. By the end of the sessions, clients will be able to handle stressful situations by knowing that they have control over how they feel and what they do in these situations and life in general. There is a slight risk of a veteran not being ready to undertake such an intensive therapy. If the veteran is not ready, there is a chance that the veteran will be worse off than they were before therapy (NCPTSD, 2011).

Recently, Virtual Reality Therapy has been included in PE therapy sessions. Virtual Reality Therapy for veterans involves using a computer. War scenarios are reconstructed through a computer program. The therapist is responsible for presenting trauma cues to the client during the program. The veteran is able to confront the events in a more realistic way, under a controlled environment, and receive the benefits that are associated with PE therapy (Graap, et al, 2012).

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Another promising treatment for soldiers experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). CPT helps veterans understand that the trauma that they have been through has changed their outlook on life. There are four main steps to CPT.

Step one involves the person suffering PTSD learning about the symptoms of the disorder and how this form of treatment can help. The therapist will explain the rationale behind every step of the process. Also at this point, the client is able to ask any questions that they may have regarding treatment (National Center for PTSD [NCPTSD], 2011).

Step two involves the client becoming aware of their thoughts and feelings. It is natural for a person to want to make sense of the things that have happened to them, especially when there is trauma involved. This leads to negative thoughts about how one could have stopped the trauma or how they could have handled things differently. These



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