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PTSD Symptoms Can Recur In Veterans Years After Their Return Home

In a study involving the recurrence of PTSD in soldiers who have returned home from battle, researchers from the Netherlands found that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can still impact the lives of soldiers years later. The findings affirm the conclusions made in previous studies that linked deployment-related stress and trauma to mental health issues.

Statistically, between 11 and 20 percent of U.S. Iraq war veterans suffer from PTSD, which is characterized by violent flashbacks and nightmares of traumatic events, as well as overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, and unusual levels of alertness. However, PTSD is prevalent among a significant number of combat veterans irrespective of location, and treatment resources for the condition are scarce.

Dutch researchers analyzed data on approximately 1,000 soldiers sent to Afghanistan from the Netherlands between March 2005 and September 2008. Each soldier was asked to fill out a questionnaire prior to their deployment, and at intervals following their return; one month, six months, one year, two years and five years later.

The questionnaire screened each soldier to identify PTSD symptoms, which were found to increase six months after returning home. The symptoms declined to levels prior to their deployment one year later, only to spike once again to their highest level yet after five years.

In November, a former dutch soldier suffering from PTSD threatened to blow up his apartment by opening a gas valve. The situation was resolved without anyone getting hurt, although neighbors were evacuated as a safety measure while a SWAT team subdued the disturbed man.

Health experts warn that time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds when it comes to PTSD. “It is important to better understand how PTSD symptoms change over time in the context of other mental health symptoms”, said Don Richardson, a psychiatrist from Parkwood Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Canada. “Screening and diagnosis is important as there are effective pharmacologic and psychological treatments available for PTSD”.

Judith Bentkover of Brown University School of Public Health pointed out that PTSD affects more than just veterans as well.

Kids have PTSD. Women have PTSD. It’s not just a disease of veterans, although they are a very important and poignant cohort of people who have it. Sexual assault victims, abused children, survivors of natural disasters do not necessarily have a VA to go to. What do they do?

Bentkover said that for many people, seeking out help for PTSD is a “daunting” task.

For veterans, the study’s lead author Iris Eekhout from VU University Medical Center, said that making sure veterans have easy access to psychological treatment is imperative to their recovery. She emphasizes the need to detect PTSD early, because early treatment “is related to positive outcome”.

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