Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects thousands of veterans returning from war zones. PTSD is defined as being an anxiety disorder following exposure to a violent, traumatic event. Frequently, PTSD is manifested through unwanted flashbacks, irrational fears, and a sense of powerlessness.
Although the term PTSD was coined in the 1970s, the set of symptoms and their prevalence among veterans goes back centuries. During World War I, the term “shell shock” was applied to soldiers incapacitated by the trauma of battle. Other antiquated terms include “battle fatigue” and “combat stress reaction.”
During World War II, as many as ten percent of American soldiers deployed in battle were treated for some form of PTSD after being exposed to continuous battle. The modern understand and treatment of PTSD in veterans really emerged following the Vietnam War. Many soldiers retuned to the United States and experienced problems readjusting to life, something originally called “post-Vietnam Syndrome.” By the mid-1970s, psychiatrists developed the term PTSD, and it was included in the DSM-III, as well as subsequent editions.
Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have experience high rates of PTSD with the VA noting a 30% increase in PTSD claims. Suicide rates have increased among veterans, and the military has instituted numerous programs to treat PTSD and help veterans return to civilian life.