Solara’s Mental Health Program for Veterans includes a vast range of plans that can be catered to each individual. While our troops fight for one united cause and protect the fabrics of our American society, their experiences and circumstances may be rather unique.
The psychological effects of military service do affect everyone differently. And of course, life’s circumstances outside of service are distinctive to one another.
However, veterans may be more prone to certain conditions over the average citizen: struggles with trauma, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and personality disorders.
Trauma & PTSD
It is not a surprise that our brave troops are the largest population in the U.S. to be exposed to terrible and life-threatening experiences. Not only is combat an incredibly stressful situation, but other things in war, politics surrounding war, the location of the war, the type of enemy faced, and sexual trauma in duty can play a role in traumatic experiences.
Some statistics to consider:
- Around 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year.
- Roughly 12% of Gulf War Veterans have PTSD in a given year.
- An estimated 30% of Vietnam Veterans have experienced PTSD.
- 55% of women and 38% of men
When a person continuously re-lives their trauma, they may experience a range of symptoms:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Arousal symptoms.
When a person struggles with these symptoms, we refer to it as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because trauma so often comes with military service, PTSD is often linked to other mental illnesses as well.
Talking with a therapist or can help a military veteran with PTSD process difficult experiences they may have gone through in active duty. A number of trauma-focused therapies are available that can help a veteran process traumatic experiences in a healthy manner.
Trauma-focused therapies can include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Learn more about PTSD treatment.
Depression is the most common mental illness, and mental health in the veteran population is no exception to this (11-15%). But, studies show that veterans are just as likely to experience depression (and anxiety) at similar rates to regular citizens. And, Vietnam Veterans have been reported to have nearly double the rates of depression and anxiety for reasons not entirely clear.
That being said, veterans do seem to experience depression for slightly different reasons than the general population. Examples of this can include separation from loved ones, lack of support systems, combat stressors, being in harm’s way, or seeing others in harm’s way.
Thankfully, depression is a highly treatable illness with many treatment options. Treatment options for depression may include serotonergic medications and a range of other therapeutic approaches.
Learn more about Depression Treatment.
Anxiety is another mental illness that is both common in the military and in the general population. About 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience acute anxiety, stress, or depression. And there has been nearly quadruple the number of reported anxiety disorders between 2000 and 2012.
Veterans may be more susceptible to anxiety due to PTSD-related issues. A difference in lifestyle moving from active duty to regular citizen life can also be anxiety-inducing to some.
Types of anxiety in veterans might include:
- Generalized Anxiety — which can be caused by a range of daily occurrences.
- Social Anxiety — where social situations make a person feel anxious.
- Phobias — where a person has intense fears of specific situations or of certain objects.
- Panic Attacks — which can be unexpected episodes of panic.
Treatments for anxiety typically include some form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and group therapy or holistic therapies may be of great use as well. In more severe cases, certain medications such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, beta-blockers or other medications may be considered.
Learn more about Anxiety Treatment.
Combat in war can lead to extreme emotional volatility. It can be debated whether these circumstances can appropriately signal bipolar disorders in a clinical setting. Other researchers argue that bipolar disorder (BPD) rates are very high in veterans with PTSD and that this BPD is underdiagnosed.
The stresses one goes through during combat may put them in mental states very similar to manic and hypomanic phases of BPD. Being exposed to these types of pressures can even cause psychotic features. And, being exposed to these states of mind can potentially have lasting effects. A 2010 study has also shown that roughly 9% of veterans suicides (in years 1998-1999) had links to bipolar disorder.
These realities place emphasis on the need to address mental illnesses like bipolar disorder with proper care and professional treatment. Signs of mental illness and emotional distress should not remain buried under “thick skin.”
Treatments for bipolar disorder include particular types of psychotherapy and adjunct medications to stabilize one’s mood. Whichever treatment is best will vary depending on the symptoms and circumstances of each individual.
Learn more about Bipolar Treatment.
Personality disorders can be characterized as rigid and unhealthy patterns of thinking. A person with a personality disorder will have trouble perceiving situations and relating to people in a suitable manner.
In the military, a person may be discharged for a personality disorder. Some argue that this is sometimes done to rid of “problem soldiers.” And others may find that they eventually fall under another diagnosis, such as PTSD. One study even concludes that symptoms of PTSD and borderline personality disorder are related to one another, but in a complex way that cannot be adequately described in linear models.
Personality disorders are among the most misunderstood, most misdiagnosed and most stigmatized mental disorders. They are also difficult to treat, but not impossible.
Medications, psychotherapy, group therapy, and family therapy can help improve one’s personality disorder condition. There are also a number of different personality disorders that can be treated in widely different ways.
Learn more about Personality Disorder Treatment.