What Types of Mental Health Disorders Are Prevalent Among Veterans?

What Types of Mental Health Disorders Are Prevalent Among Veterans?

The mental health of service members and veterans has been a hot topic in recent years. Posttraumatic stress disorder and depression affect many of these individuals, although they may struggle with other mental health problems. In fact, experts believe up to 16 percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD or depression.

This doesn’t mean a person can forget about those who have a traumatic brain injury or suffer from substance abuse disorder. Regardless of what condition a person struggles with, the consequences are far-reaching. Furthermore, they can affect family members and friends. Men and women who have deployed aren’t the only ones at risk. Anyone who serves in the military must be aware of these issues. They may not appear for years either, so this is something any service member should watch for over their lifetime.

Millions of individuals have served, so veteran mental health must be a concern for all. Currently, over six percent of Americans have served in the military. Think of how many family members are associated with these veterans or active service members. The sheer numbers show why it is critical to make their mental health a priority.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

It wasn’t until 1980 that PTSD appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the symptoms seen with this disorder have been documented for over 100 years. One problem mental health professionals encounter when working with these individuals is this condition is a combination of several factors, and this condition affects people of all ages. What most people don’t know is family members can struggle with PTSD, particularly after learning a friend or family member has suffered an accident or been violently threatened.

PTSD differs from other disorders in that the person will have flashbacks and nightmares related to the trauma. They become hypervigilant and might suffer from insomnia. They start to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. These symptoms affect every aspect of this life, which is why treatment is essential.

Depressive Disorders

Veterans often request mental health treatment after a deployment. Physical injuries may play a role in their mental health issues, and help is needed to treat the whole person. While PTSD receives more attention, depression is very common. The person may become depressed because they are separated from their loved ones. Combat brings with it stress, and the service member is constantly at risk of being harmed. They also worry about their teammates who are being placed in harm’s way.

A person suffering from major depression may exhibit a range of symptoms. They often lose interest in things they used to enjoy. Sleep difficulties are common, and the person may gain or lose weight. While any person may feel depressed at times, major depression interferes with their ability to function. Sadly, this problem is commonly misdiagnosed by general practitioners, which is why a mental health professional is needed to help these men and women.

Heightened Risk of Suicide

Veterans are at a high risk of suicide. Hundreds of veterans take their lives each year. One study found that almost 18 percent of suicides today involved veterans. Many of these suicides occur within the first year of their separation from the military. A Presidential Executive Order in 2018 was signed with the goal of improving veteran suicide prevention services as service members moved from the military back into civilian life. The VA and Department of Defense are also focused on reducing suicides among military members.

Substance Abuse Issues

Many military members and veterans have substance abuse disorders now. Alcohol use is the preferred drug of many, as it is socially acceptable and relieves stress. However, drug use is becoming more commonplace. Substance abuse disorders come with many adverse effects. A person abusing one or more substances is more likely to commit suicide.

However, a person with a substance abuse disorder compulsively seeks the drug. Their body will undergo physiological changes and their social functioning will decline. If this behavior continues, the service member or veteran will become addicted and find they cannot quit. Alcohol isn’t the only substance a person can misuse. Alcohol, nicotine, and prescription medications, along with illicit drugs, may all be abused.

Veterans deserve our respect. They also deserve excellent comprehensive medical care, including mental health services. Fortunately, many facilities provide this help today. Hopefully, more will be in the future to ensure all service members, active and retired, receive this care in a timely manner.

About the author
Mrs. Hatland is a 30-something married, mom of 7 and the face behind the popular online publication, Motherhood Defined. Known as the Iowa Mom blogger by her local peers and “The Fairy Blogmother” worldwide. She has professional experience in working closely with clients on brand ambassadorships, client outreach services, content creation and creative social media advertising exposure.

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