For Investors in the Military Industrial Complex wars are good business. For the rest of us they are an unwinnable conflict from which comes nothing that is positive. Loved ones are lost or injured; billions of dollars which could be helping our nation’s people are thrown away. As our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or spouses return home, we realize that the war never left them. Those men and women who fight the wars often have families who are casualties as well.
The stories of men returning from combat who display drastic changes in their personalities are endless. It has a name, but it fails to reveal its destructive and sometimes deadly content; it’s called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD is clinically defined as an emotional or mental disorder which causes the victim to feel extreme stress or is frightened although there is no apparent danger. Loved ones witness drastic mood swings, and fits of anger often to the point of rage. They may become dependent on alcohol or prescription drugs, and occasionally succumb to controlled substances.
The cause is understandable; war is hell. Clinically it is caused by physical harm or the threat of physical harm. It can result from other causes than the stress of a battlefield. Rape, muggings, child abuse, domestic violence, a serious vehicle accident, or being involved in a plane crash can cause PTSD. Any traumatic experience which places an individual in a position to receive grievous bodily harm applies.
Thousands of men and some women returned from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq with PTSD. Our military is not tested for symptoms as they arrive on American soil. All too often they are forgotten by our government once their tour of duty has ended. Added to the stress of fighting in battle is the fact that they frequently are unable to find suitable employment coming home, and any financial aid they received in the war zone now disappears.
Victims may hide the symptoms of PTSD for years. VA hospitals across the nation have begun to see more sufferers who had served in Vietnam in the last several years. Their complaints are many; sleeplessness, headaches, loss of memory, a deep sense of loss, and uncontrollable anger to name just a few.
In 2006 the VA was treating approximately 275,000 patients for PTSD; as of March this year, the number has nearly doubled to 530,000.
Lengthy deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq not only affected the soldiers; spouses frequently develop health problems. Between 2003 and 2006 the medical records of spouses affected by their partner’s PTSD revealed chronic ailments. 250,000 suffered from disorders such as anxiety, inability to sleep, and adjustment disorder related to their spouse’s challenges to cope with PTSD. The malady received its own name,’ Secondary PTSD.’
Even when families seek help from the VA and other military institutions, they often find the services inadequate or unattainable in a timely fashion. Many veteran’s relationships end in broken families as the symptoms become more severe. Regrettably, greater mental anguish from PTSD occasionally results in physical harm to a spouse, or even death at the hands of a veteran.
By James Turnage