The commonality of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans ranges by service era and type of service. Roughly 12-30 percent of veterans from active operations experience PTSD in their lifetime. Additional stressors that can contribute to PTSD and mental health problems after service may also include your active duty and responsibilities, politics, the type of opposition you face and where the war is located.
Some veterans may also experience PTSD from military sexual trauma (MST). It is estimated that 55 out of 100 women and 38 out of 100 men experience sexual harassment while in the military.
PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last for more than a month, cause significant distress and interfere with a person’s ability for daily functioning. Symptoms range in severity on a case-by-case basis and may occur shortly after their PTSD-inducing experience, or years later. Symptoms include:
- Intrusive thoughts, memories, distressing dreams or flashbacks of the event.
- Avoidance of people, places, activities, objects and situations that remind the individual of, or trigger, distressing memories. Veterans with PTSD may also resist and avoid discussing the event, or any feelings they may have about it.
- Alterations in cognition and mood. This may include loss of memory and negative thoughts and feelings or distorted beliefs about oneself or others. Feelings may also include blame, fear, horror, anger, guilt, detachment or shame. Veterans with PTSD may also lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed or may experience a feeling of inability to experience positive emotions such as happiness or satisfaction.
- Alterations in arousal and reactivity may include being irritable, having angry outbursts, reckless or self-destructive behavior, being overly suspicious or watchful of one’s surroundings. It may also include being easily startled or having issues with concentration or sleep.
Furthermore, veterans who experience PTSD may also experience related conditions such as depression, memory issues, substance abuse and other physical and mental health problems.
For some, PTSD symptoms may subside over time, while others may need treatment. Common traditional treatments for PTSD include:
- Cognitive processing and talk therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
- Stress inoculation therapy
- Group therapy
- Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and animal-assisted therapy
Recent studies on PTSD care and treatment include the role of digital technology in PTSD treatments. Digital technology-based applications can provide more accessible treatment for veterans with PTSD and may include virtual telehealth, internet-based intervention, mobile apps, wearable technology, virtual experience with AR and games as well as other digital media.
This resource guide will examine different digital therapy tools and provide resources that can be used by veterans with PTSD alongside treatment.