Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder than can develop after a person witnesses a traumatic event. A traumatic event can take many forms--a natural disaster, sexual abuse or a terrorist attack such as 9/11--but for veterans, PTSD is most often related to combat or military exposure.
In wars prior to Vietnam, the disorder was referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and was not very well understood beyond the fact that it limited the soldier’s performance on the battlefield. Today, the disorder is more widely studied. We know that PTSD can lead to other mental health problems such as depression, social withdrawal and substance abuse.
The effects can also be long-term. According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, one in three people who develop PTSD will continue to experience symptoms.
Recently the Veterans Administration changed the rules regarding claims related to PTSD. To get the most up-to-date information, see the statutes on pensions, bonuses and veterans’ relief online. For a summary of recent research see the March 2010 Final Draft Report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force.
The good news is that more resources and treatments are available today. Some new treatments, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), are being investigated. Others, such as Virtual Iraq, a video game designed for exposure therapy, are still in development. NAMI's Advocate magazine examined the role of service animals in the treatment of PTSD. Additional information on service dogs is below.
Our PTSD section for veterans includes resources where you can find out more about PTSD, learn about treatments and read about how PTSD affects families and children of veterans.