PTSD and the Military


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition widely experienced by military veterans. In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, III (DSM-III) first recognized the debilitating disorder, most likely due to its ubiquity in Vietnam veterans. Currently, it is widely affecting veterans who return from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced a major trauma, whether a one-time event (such as rape) or continuous exposure to disturbing events (like one may experience during a year- long tour in Iraq). Additionally, there are four types of exposure to trauma that may cause PTSD to develop, including: being a victim of trauma, a perpetrator of trauma, an observer of trauma, or surviving a natural disaster. Army veterans are likely to experience the first three types of exposure.

Many veterans with PTSD may experience various symptoms, such as re-living the events through nightmares, avoiding situations that may trigger memories of the event, changing negatively regarding beliefs and or feelings, and becoming hyper-aware of surroundings. Other symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and signs of hopelessness. If left undiagnosed and untreated, suicide is common. Sadly, twice as many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than troops who were actually killed in Vietnam.

While there are various forms of treatment for the disorder, including medication and different types of therapy, many sufferers of PTSD may self-medicate in order to cope. Self-medicating behaviors may include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, self-harm (cutting), pornography, thrill seeking, and the use of morbid humor. Victims of PTSD may try to seek numbness through alcohol or drug use, or they may seek excitement through frivolous sex, reckless driving, or the consumption of pornography.

The use of pornography to cope may sometimes begin harmlessly, but as these images lose their thrill, sufferers of PTSD may sometimes seek illegal forms of porn for their "shock value," as PTSD victims often have a lowered threshold to "feel alive." Unfortunately, these self-medicating actions may lead to trouble within the legal system.