According to a study conducted in 2014, nearly 1 in 4 active duty service members showed signs of a mental health condition. This isn’t surprising considering millions of Americans grapple with mental health issues and their job is not nearly as high stress as those of our military. The VA Medical Center of Los Angeles manages the care of both active service members and former veterans every day. The key to making the process work is being honest about your symptoms and knowing that help is available for the treatment of a variety of disorders. What mental health issues are veterans most prone to experiencing?
#1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is the most commonly reported mental health issue for former servicemen and women. It is especially prevalent in those that have experienced combat. It does not mean that the individual is weak for grappling with these issues. It is a natural part of human psychology and our capacity to protect ourselves from dangerous circumstances. For some people, these symptoms are short lived. For some people, the symptoms are manageable and do not constitute a major disruption to their day-to-day lives. For others, PTSD causes a number of symptoms that not only last for a long time, but are difficult to manage. The symptoms do end up disrupting their day-to-day lives. These symptoms include difficulty sleeping, anger, restless sleep, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, panic, feeling jumpy or anxious, and very often alcohol and drug abuse. If the problems persist over a long enough time period, a diagnosis of PTSD is made. It can be successfully treated.
#2. Depression and Anxiety
Very often, depression and anxiety are linked together. Depression is not something that you can simply “get over” or think your way out of. You can’t train your brain to be more positive or look on the bright side. If you can do these things and it helps you out, that’s great, but it isn’t depression. Depression interferes with your everyday life. There may feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness. It may be difficult to get out of bed, or you may have difficulty sleeping at night. For veterans, the rate of depression is five times higher than that of civilians.
Anxiety is a feel of nervousness, fear, apprehension. Anxiety has physiological effects. It effects your blood pressure. What makes psychiatric anxiety different from rational anxiety (say if you’re taking an exam) is that there appears to be no basis for that anxiety and it persists long after its been triggered by a legitimate stimuli.
Either of these conditions can have a severe impact on the quality of a person’s life. But help is available to those that need it. All of these conditions are treatable and manageable with the proper counseling and medication.