Facts About PTSD and Veterans Facts About PTSD and Veterans

Dallas Pierce was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor device for his service in Iraq, where his convoy was ambushed in 2004. "Other than the obvious physical wounds, he receives a 60% disability rating for post traumatic stress disorder," says a military post on Flickr. "He served three tours in Iraq over the course of the war, but is haunted by the day he was almost overrun."

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, a reaction to experiencing a dangerous, distressful event or period—examples include war combat, a natural disaster, a life-threatening accident, and sexual assault. A person with PTSD has mental and physical symptoms stemming from that trauma for several months, or longer, afterward.

What are the signs and symptoms?
A person with PTSD can experience nightmares, flashbacks from the event, an inability to have positive feelings, difficulty sleeping, and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of PTSD can disrupt daily life—avoiding things that trigger memories of the trauma, for example, or trouble with relationships.

How common is it among military veterans?
About 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. By comparison, 7 to 8 percent of the general population experiences PTSD at some point.

What can be done to help?
Psychotherapy, sometimes coupled with medication, is a common avenue for treating PTSD. At the same time, a number of nonprofit organizations aim to support the healing process by fostering activities that bring veterans together in a friendly, active environment—check out the Alaskan dog-sledding expeditions of Battle Dawgs, the art-focused efforts of Warrior StoryField, Warrior Camp in Colorado, and efforts by Outward Bound.