Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a part of war since the time of
Aristotle, however new evidence suggests it may be worse in the current war in Afghanistan than in any previous war.
PTSD has been around for centuries. In the civil and revolutionary war it
was called Soldier’s Heart, Battle Fatigue or the Thousand Yard Stare. In WWI and WWII it became known as Shell Shock
or War Malaise and later Vietnam Syndrome or Gulf War Syndrome. It appears no matter what time period we find ourselves in,
where there is war there will be PTSD.
The Mayo Clinic defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as “A type of
anxiety disorder which is triggered by a traumatic event. You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you experience
or witness an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror.” Symptoms include flashbacks during which you
relive the event for minutes or even days at a time, nightmares, severe depression, hopelessness, anger, shame, self destructive
behavior, and hallucinations.
In 1983, the United States Government started the National Veterans Readjustment
Study as part of a congressional mandate in order to better understand PTSD and its affects on Vietnam veterans. At the conclusion
of the study it was found that 15.2% of male and 8.5% of female veterans showed signs of PTSD and those with high levels of
war zone exposure had a 35.2% rate of PTSD.
According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, 1 million troops
left active duty between 2001 and 2009 and became eligible for VA services. 46% sought treatment for some ailment, disease
or disability and 48% of these were diagnosed with a mental health problem. This is a rate of about 25% of returning troops
having some form of PTSD.
The rate increases when the National Guard and Reserve units are compared
with the Army and Marines, as National Guard and Reserve units not only make up 40% of our gross force in Afghanistan but
are more susceptible to PTSD.
As high as the PTSD rate currently is, in reality it should be higher. The
majority of those suffering from PTSD due to the Iraq or Afghanistan war will not accept treatment. The VA lists possible
reasons such as concern towards being seen as weak or losing respect, being treated differently, lack of faith in treatment
or not being able to access the treatment required.
PTSD makes it difficult for returning veterans to have meaningful relationships
with friends and family, hold steady jobs, sleep peacefully and abide by social constructs and norms. Frighteningly, the rates
of PTSD in returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war is nearly equal with that of the Vietnam War already. With
the real number unknown as the majority of those afflicted are opting out of treatment, the current war in Afghanistan could
produce a higher percentage of mentally disabled veterans than any previous American war.