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The Effects of PTSD on Those Returning from Iraq


Introduction

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder is caused by people’s exposure to situations that result to them experiencing psychological suffering. For instance, these situations can lead to various threats, injury and even deaths. People experience various situations that lead to them developing post-traumatic stress disorders. Examples of these are personal assaults, wars, accidents, and natural disasters. PTSD is usually characterizes by fear. Such people will in most cases detach themselves and not want to associate with other people and this even leads to the lack of sleep. Mostly, people with post-traumatic stress disorders will experience frightening thoughts and false memories. This paper discusses the effects that PTSD has on those people returning from Iraq.


Discussion

The experiences of war are characterized by sadness, guilt and dread and this is a common experience for war veterans. According to Taylor & Baker (2007) similar feelings of difficulties when relating to non combats and mood swings have been reported by combat veterans. Following unexpected things that people experience, they are expected to be traumatized. This is because the human mind stores a lot of information and thus they will always have those memories which may have great influences on them. This can however be resolved by giving the war veterans an understanding. This helps in their moral as well as psychosocial development. Most of the war veterans of Iraq experienced the war during their late adolescence stages. It is the failure to resolve the psychosocial tasks of late adolescence that resulted to them developing PTSD. The effect this has had on them is that they are unable to share their experiences, and thus resulting to difficulties in relating to other people.


Reports indicate that war veterans who are PTSD diagnosed appear to be of an older subjective age. Further, PTSD affected their physical health and that is why their identity appeared to be of an older age. In addition to effects on their physical health, their mental health was also affected and this meant the loss of memory (Solomon, Helvitz & Zerach, 2008). Trauma in one’s life makes them have the feeling of being of an older age and this is what led to the war veterans experiencing an older subjective age. PTSD also led to negative events in life. Age is related to moral development levels.


For instance, a study carried out by Taylor & Baker (2007) revealed that half of the respondents who were PTSD diagnosed were above 30 years of age and had first experienced war in their late adolescence. PTSD affects both psychosocial and moral development of persons. Studies have shown that the psychosocial development of war veterans affected by PTSD between the ages of 30-67 is lower as compared to that of freshmen in college. Further, their moral development only compares to that of junior students in high school. This shows that PTSD greatly affects the development of war veterans.


According to Solomon, Helvitz & Zerach (2008) these perceptions of an older subjective age and problems in health can be related to low self esteem, weak ego and negative effect. This is because trauma spoils the trust that people hold in themselves and in others as well. Further, the people diagnosed with PTSD will not see life’s value and thus tend to become hopeless. PTSD also affects other functioning areas in life. For instance it may lead to occupational as well as sexual dysfunction. Post-traumatic stress disorders are also related weight gains which make a great contribution towards the identity of an older age. Because of the loss of memory and other problems in memory, these people who suffers from such problems will see themselves as being older that their actual ages.


The life quality that people live has greater relations to their perceived age as compared to their chronological age. With the perception that they are of an older age, veterans diagnosed with PTSD leave a life of a lower quality than PTSD free people of their similar ages. The quality of life that people live is greatly affected by their physical health, mental as well as social relationships. With poor physical health and mental problems, the war veterans diagnosed with PTSD lead a difficult life. This is a life that can be characterized by frequent stresses. Human beings cannot exist as an island but rather as part of a larger social community. Since PTSD results to reduced or even lack of social relationships, the life quality of the veterans is lowered. Further, they lose their self worth and are not even motivated to live. Thus, life will tend to become meaningless to them.


PTSD has been reported to affect the mental functioning of the veterans. One of the reasons for such effects is because of the sexual harassment and assault that they faced when in service. Therefore, this has resulted to sexual trauma. According to Kimerling et al. (2010) this is not only observed with the militants but the civilians as well. This is mainly observed with women. Because of this sexual trauma, the veterans suffer from mental health illness. PTSD has also been related to substance abuse. In most cases, people will tend to indulge in the use of drugs and other substances so as to forgo their stresses. Therefore, because of the stresses that are associated with sexual trauma, war veterans tend to indulge in substance abuse. This further affects their physical as well as mental health.


Studies have shown that soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Among the physical and mental health problems identified is the traumatic brain injury. Therefore, there is need to focus on the medical needs of these returning war veterans. Because of the implications of war, there was repeated deployment of soldiers to fight. According to Kline et al. (2010) war veterans in Iraq experienced a lot of combat stress. This is what led to the study on the effects that multiple deployments had on the physical and mental health of the soldiers who were deployed to Iraq. The study revealed that medically ill soldiers were being returned to fight. Further, this group was reported to experience PTSD and depression. Since troops who were believed not to be medically fit to actively participate in their lines of duty were deployed to Iraq, this led to them developing PTSD.


It is this PTSD that resulted to the reports of stigma in mental health. Because of this stigma, the soldiers did not report these symptoms and thus resulting to even more suffering. Therefore, this resulted to psychological distress in the soldiers who were returning from the war in Iraq (Kline et al., 2010). PTSD is observed as a long term effects and it emerges long after the return from war. Therefore, it is important to have post deployment reassessment so as to recognize those veterans who might have suffered the symptoms but failed to report. This is also associated with the fear that comes about with PTSD. Because of being frightened, the soldiers are not able to report the symptoms. Repeated deployment of soldiers to Iraq greatly affected their mental and physical functioning. This then resulted to their psychological impairment and thus need to be treated for PTSD. However, the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder suffers the challenge of the lack of health care.


PTSD is mainly a mental illness. This is because the veterans experience fear that is mostly in their thoughts and thus manipulated in their actions and behaviors. Therefore, they need mental health care. This care can be offered by counseling as well as personal relations. According to Taylor & Baker (2007) family therapy is useful in dealing with PTSD. Further, cognitive therapy is important since it helps in their cognitive development. This is because following the bad memories of war and the PTSD, the veterans are not able to engage in good reasoning levels. This implies that they are not able to solely cope with the emotions, fears, confusion and trauma that they suffer from.


To show how PTSD was a mental illness, Seal et al. (2009) conducted an investigation on the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. This was indetermination of the risk factors that were associated with mental health. After the war in Iraq, the rate of prevalence of PTSD increased highly. This then revealed that there were many war veterans who had posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Further, the diagnoses of mental ailments increased following the start of the war in Iraq and this was observed differently among different groups of war veterans.


When faced by psychological problems, people will tend to take solace in alcohol and other drug abuses. For instance, this greatly affected the younger veterans. The young people in most cases have their brains more involved in what they do. That is why they are most likely to be traumatized by their experiences. The war veterans who are less than 25 years of age have been observed to indulge in drug and alcohol abuse more than the older ones for instance more than 40 years of age. Further, these young veterans have higher rates of PTSD in comparison with the older ones. This then shows that the nation might loose out on young people in their productive ages. Counseling is thus important to ensure that these people regain their productivity and thereby do not become dependent on others.


One of the reasons why the war veterans developed mental health problems is because of the memories associated with killing. Those returning from the war in Iraq have been involved in killing themselves or being the ones responsible for the killings. According to Maguen et al. (2010) killing is greatly associated with PTSD. These veterans who were involved in killing have been reported to be traumatized by those deaths. Further, killing has affected the war veterans in that they also observed their fellow soldiers being kills and this is a traumatizing experience as well. Those returning from Iraq especially the militants who had been deployed are at higher risks of having mental health conditions.


This also comes with other psychosocial functioning that is related to war and killing. This can further be associated with the hostility and high levels of anger of the veterans which developed as a result of the conflicts that they previously experienced (Elbogen et al., 2010). The war veterans have been observed to have symptoms of hyperarousal. This reveals that they have elevated levels of anger.


Studies have revealed that in the united states, there are many people who suffer from PTSD. This comes following trauma exposures for instance the war in Iraq. Further, it is shown that the female victims are usually at an increased rate of being affected by PTSD that male victims of traumatic events. These differences are usually observed in their levels of anxiety, depression, stress and neuroticism (Breslau, 2009). This then shows that women are more vulnerable to PTSD. Therefore, with this vulnerability, more women are facing PTSD than men. This is however, though to a small extend not mostly associated with sexual assault that women suffer and there is also no biasness in terms of sexuality when reporting.


However, it can be attributed to the fact that women will tend to attach more significance to the suffering and trauma that they go through than men will. This will go through their lives and thus show more distress. Research has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder is more prevalent and has increased growth in those people who show a lot of emotional as well as psychological attachment to their trauma for instance the women.


PTSD can be made severe by how ones health functioning is. For instance, poor health results to high levels of posttraumatic stress disorders. According to Jakupcak, Luterek, Hunt, Conybeare & McFall (2008) after all other factors have been accounted for, including demographics, exposure to chemicals, behaviors that are risk to ones health and combat factors, how severe the symptoms of PTSD are is highly associated with poor health. This then shows that posttraumatic stress disorder uniquely influences the physical health of human beings. This is in relation to the treatment of the war veterans.


In the treatment of those returning from Iraq, it has been observed that following their posttraumatic experiences, their physical health has deteriorated. Further, their health also affects ways in which war veterans handle their trauma. Since PTSD is associated with the brain, the veterans need to be healthy so as to handle such stresses. This then shows that the war veterans should be fed well to ensure that they are physically fit. Further, they need psychological peace and understanding. Therefore, the people living with them ought to ensure that the war veterans are not psychologically disturbed by other external factors other than their war experiences. This then will result to low posttraumatic stress disorders.


Following posttraumatic stress disorders, the war veterans become suicidal. This is usually associated to the increases in comorbid mental disorders. These are observed in those people that have PTSD. According to Jakupcak et al. (2009) there are very high chances of the people with posttraumatic stress disorders becoming suicidal as compared to the veterans who do not posttraumatic stress disorders. Further, these suicidal symptoms are also related to other disorders. For instance, PTSD veterans with other comorbid disorders are more likely to become suicidal that those that have only one comorbid disorder. Therefore, the PTSD veterans returning from Iraq are most likely to exhibit suicidal behaviors. Thus, PTSD can be observed as a risk factor towards suicide. This can also be attributed to the mental health of the veterans. However, these high rates of suicide symptoms are not associated with the status of the veterans. Therefore, policies aimed at the prevention of suicide of veterans should be focusing on factors that lead to increased risks of suicide other than on the status of the veterans.


Posttraumatic stress disorder is also associated with avoidance and checking behaviors. These are behaviors that can be taken as gaining influence from traumatic events as well as combat duties that were theater-specific. This war in Iraq has its nature and this was unique. This was represented by soldiers having challenging roles which affected their symptom presentation. These then has effects on addressing PTSD. This is because the variations that resulted from these challenges complicate the efforts of identifying these posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. For instance, during the time of war, the soldiers were deployed even when it was evident that they had health problems. This then resulted to them keeping their problems to themselves and thus has complicated addressing of concerns that are related to PTSD.


What these veterans need most is mental health care. There have been numerous efforts to ensure that there is increased access to mental health care for the war veterans. However, this has been faced by numerous challenges. For instance, the veterans are usually reluctant to seek for medical mental health care. Therefore, this makes it hard to offer them the necessary care. Further, this care needs to be progressively improved, offered by trained people who are able to handle different types of people. These differences are associated to age, sex and position. This then becomes challenging since there are limited number of workforce for offering mental health care.


In addition, this requires competency since in mental care, people will react in different ways. For example, some may be distressed such that they will tend to hold back and thus not give any valuable information. On the other other, some people will tend to talk too much and thus the medical mental care specialist should be able to handle all these people effectively. These challenges should thus be addressed in the veterans health administration if sufficient mental health care is to be offered to the veterans. It is very essential that veterans access quality health care services. These other than the mental health care services include the general health care services.

Conclusion

Posttraumatic stress disorder has various effects on the people returning from Iraq. This is because these people experienced suffering that resulted to them having a lot of fear. Further, among the most traumatizing experiences that people can have is war. Therefore, the Iraq war was traumatizing for the veterans. This led to a lot of stress and depression for the veterans. Among the PTSD effects are delayed psychosocial and moral developments, lack of social relationships, perceptions of an older subjective age, physical and mental health problems. Further, the veterans experience mental stigma. In addition to this, war veterans become suicidal as a result of posttraumatic stress disorders. Therefore, these war veterans need PTSD treatment and this can be done by counseling and cognitive therapy.


References

Breslau, N. (2009). The Epidemiology of Trauma, PTSD, and Other Posttrauma Disorders. Trauma Violence Abuse. 10: 198–210.

Elbogen, E.B. et al. (2010). Correlates of Anger and Hostility in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans. American Psychiatric Association. Volume 167, 1051-1058.

Jakupcak, M. et al. (2009). Posttraumatic stress disorder as a risk factor for suicidal ideation in Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. Journal of Traumatic Stress. Volume 22 (4), p.303-306.

Jakupcak, M., Luterek, J., Hunt, S., Conybeare, D. & McFall, M. (2008). Posttraumatic Stress and Its Relationship to Physical Health Functioning in a Sample of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Seeking Postdeployment VA Health Care. Journal of Nervous & Mental disease. Volume 196 (5), p. 425-428.

Kimerling, R. et al., (2010). Military-Related Sexual Trauma Among Veterans Health Administration Patients Returning From Afghanistan and Iraq. American Journal of Public Health. Volume 100 (8), p. 1409-1412. 52335341.

Kline, A. et al., (2010). Effects of Repeated Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan on the Health of New Jersey Army National Guard Troops: Implications for Military Readiness. American Journal of Public Health. Volume 100 (2), p. 276-282. 47521824.

Maguen, S. et al. (2010). The impact of reported direct and indirect killing on mental health symptoms in Iraq war veterans. Journal of Traumatic stress. Volume 23 (1), p. 86-90.

Seal, K. H. et al., (2009). Trends and Risk Factors for Mental Health Diagnoses among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care, 2002–2008. American Journal of Public Health. Volume 99 (9), p. 1651-1658.

Solomon, Z., Helvitz, H. & Zerach, G. (2009). Subjective age, PTSD and physical health among war veterans. Aging & Mental Health. Volume 13 (3), p. 405-413. 40627017.

Taylor, J.G. & Baker, S.B. (2007). Psychological and Moral Development of PTSD-Diagnosed Combat Veterans. Journal of Counseling & Development. Volume 85, p. 364-369. 25930256.


 
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