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Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in Military Personnel Essay

Post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) is defined as a psychological disorder which arises from life-threatening experiences; affecting the physical or emotional state of the individual. Examples of these experiences are motor accidents; natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and the like; man-made tragedies such as plane crash and hijacking; abusive experiences in childhood; traumatic personal experience such as rape or torture; and violent military associated events. The symptoms associated with this disorder include those homologous to anxiety attacks or depression.

The patient will also experience sleeping problems, emotional numbness, psychological catatonia, lack of affection for other people and even aggressiveness. One outstanding symptom of PTSS patients is avoidance of specific places and situations that is associated to the primary cause of the disorder. Since these will trigger memories related to their traumatic experience, it is of utmost importance for them to avoid any contact and encounter with these scenarios. Also, the patient usually has recurrent flashbacks or hallucinations of this particular, damaging event (University of Virginia Health System, 2007).

Post traumatic stress syndrome can be observed in a varied class of individuals: regardless of sex, age, culture or economic status. In short, PTSS can be observed in any kind of character, given enough dose of traumatic experience. In the United States, the percentage of the population affected by PTSS is estimated to be between 1% to 12%. It was estimated that around 7. 7 million Americans are suffering from PTSS and that 30% of individuals who were in war-stricken areas will suffer from PTSS (University of Virginia Health System, 2007).

In specific classes in society, PTSS is observed to occur at 0. 2% in post partum women, 18% in fire fighters, 34% in adults involved in vehicular accidents, 48% in female rape victims and 67% in prisoners of war. (Lange, 2000) In this paper, the impact of this phenomenon will be studied on military personnel: the factors contributing to the advent of the disorder, the statistics of military personnel with PTSS, the medical intervention and treatment used for PTSS and the effectiveness of the treatment used by the military to cure PTSS.

History of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in the US Military: Various Wars through the Years Post Traumatic Syndrome in military personnel was correlated with a number of pre-military, military and post-military factors. These three pertain to the background of the soldier before joining the military, the activities one engaged in as a military personnel and one’s life after military service. For pre-military risk factors, some of these were emotional instability, age of entry into the military, past child abuse, minority status, socioeconomic status, substance abuse and years of education.

For military risk factors, these were degree of atrocities witnessed or participated in of a soldier, combat exposure, captivity, injury in combat and danger threatening the soldier’s life. Post-military risk factors, on the other hand, include time of discharge from the military, substance abuse, available social support and socioeconomic status (Bremmer, 2005). Post traumatic stress syndrome was first observed in war veterans who were assigned in the war against Vietnam during the 1980’s. This was the first time the scientific and psychological community acknowledge this disorder.

Since PTSS was not yet known to the world, it was initially called battle fatigue and shell shock (University of Virginia Health System, 2007). In this war, it was estimated by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS) that 15. 2% of male veterans and 8. 1% of female veterans; 479,000 out of 3,140,000 and 610 out of 7,200, respectively; were diagnosed with PTSS during a two year study in 1986. In terms of delinquency observed in these Vietnam War veterans, almost half of male soldiers who were diagnosed with PTSS were arrested or jailed at least once after their diagnosis.

The percentage of those who were convicted was estimated to be at 11. 5%. In 2004, there were around 161,000 veterans who are still receiving PTSS disability compensation from the government. But even before this decade, military men and women had already suffered from war-related disorders. In World War II, it was estimated by the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that in every 20 deployed military, there was one individual who suffered PTSS-related symptoms such as irritability, nightmares and flashbacks.

The actual number of PTSS affected soldiers was estimated to be at 25,000 based on the number indicated by the Department of Veterans Affairs back in 2004. These soldiers were still receiving PTSS disability compensation from the department during this time. A prisoner of World War II’s (POW) tendency to developed PTSS was also investigated by various studies long after the war was over. According to Speed, 50% of those who were involved in WW II developed PTSS a year after the war and 29% still developed PTSS even after 40 years (Speed, 1989).

Meanwhile, in terms of recovery, Klusnik determined that among the 188 POW who suffered PTSS, only 36 of them had recovered from the disorder (Klusnik, 1986). If the war between Korea and the United States will be considered, the approximate percentage of soldiers who suffered PTSS is around 30%, according to an independent study by a Korean researcher. The Persian Gulf War back in 1991 is also noteworthy to mention. This war was also an avenue for soldiers to suffer post traumatic stress syndrome.

In 1999, a study conducted by Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found out that among the 697,000 soldiers deployed to this war, there was an increasing number of soldiers who were suffering from the disorder. Initially, the rate of PTSS development for men and women were 3% and 8%, respectively. But after 18 to 24 months of returning to the United States of America, the rate increased from 7% to 16%. In the recent years, wars launched against Iraq and Afghanistan were enough reasons for the government to revive studies focusing on PTSS and its impact on the soldiers deployed to this heavily-bombarded countries.

In Afghanistan, it was showed that 18% of the 45,880 soldiers deployed to this country suffered some kind of psychological disorder (PD), while the number of PTSS cases reached 188. In Iraq, from the 155,000 US soldiers in this country, 20% were diagnosed with PD and 1,641 were with PTSS. Women personnel who were affected with this disorder was from 8%-10% (Epstein & Miller, 2005). When these data are combined, 46. 4% of soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan suffered PTSS in 2007, totalling to 40,000 cases in a five-year period.

The distribution of the cases is as follows: for the Air Force-2,476; Army-28,365; Navy-2,884; and Marines-5,641 (Morgan, 2008). Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from the Military A special division of the US government is devoted to treating PTSS patients, and this is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Through the years, since the late 1970’s, VA had developed programs that continuously monitor and improve the state of soldiers once they return to their home country after being deployed in a war-stricken zone.

There are three approaches that the department uses in order to achieve this goal: one, through outpatient approach; two, through varying length inpatient stay; and three, through residential care. These ways vary in the length of stay of the PTSS cases in the medical facility. Some of the treatments given to the cases were group counselling, educational support and psychological assessment of the soldiers. It was determined that there was no statistically significant difference between the length of stay of a PTSS patient in the facility.

Since the duration of the soldiers in the treatment facility is equated to monetary costs, it was recommended that treatment not be prolonged, since the same results will be achieved with shorter treatment duration (Broschat, 1998). Another form of treatment for this disorder came from the military itself. In the core’s training program, each soldier is taught how to recognize post traumatic stress syndromes among themselves and among their comrades.

This program is called the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/MTBI) Chain Teaching Program, with the main objective of putting the knowledge and power in the soldiers themselves in order to take care of one another (U. S. Army Medical Department, 2007). Summary and Conclusion Since time immemoria, post traumatic stress syndrome was observed to plague war combatants since World War II. In every conflict that the United States government engaged in, there was the inevitable rise of PTSS cases documented.

From The Persian Gulf War, to the Korean War, to the latest invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers continuously suffered from this disorder in an increasing fashion. Post traumatic syndrome is a serious problem faced, not only by military personnel, but also by the government. With an increasing number of PTSS cases through the years in every war launched by the government, there is also an increase in the corresponding amount of budget to be used for the treatment and rehabilitation of the soldiers.

With this, it is imperative that this disorder be given enough attention and support from those in authority. Soldiers are the backbone of the country’s security. Without them, invasion by foreign and local enemies is likely to happen. But defence without psychologically sound soldiers will not be possible. Therefore, for a land to be secured and safe from any threat, the well-being of soldiers must be valued, thus, post traumatic syndrome must be answered with utmost urgency.


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