Combat PTSD: Stats, Symptoms, & Recovery

July 8, 2024

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Returning from military service and adjusting to life outside can be tough, especially when dealing with combat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). While PTSD can be highly disruptive, it’s also treatable.

If you feel alone or distant from others, this guide to PTSD and combat veterans shows you you’re not on your own and explores the support available to help you with your thoughts and feelings.

For immediate help in a crisis, call 844-759-0999.

What Is Combat PTSD?

Combat PTSD is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder that affects people who have been in combat. This can include soldiers who have experienced live fire situations and support workers in war zones.

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Not everyone who is in combat gets PTSD, but many do. Certain things can trigger memories of the traumatic events, causing the person to relive the trauma. This can make it hard for them to live their everyday lives.

PTSD happens when someone experiences or sees something traumatic and can’t get over it. 6% of adults in the general population experience PTSD at some stage, while 7% of combat veterans develop PTSD. Although this condition can be challenging, help is available.

Common Triggers of Combat PTSD

Triggers are things that can bring back memories of a traumatic event and make a person feel like they are reliving it. For people with combat PTSD, these triggers can be many different things. Here are some common triggers:

  • Loud noises: Sounds like thunder, fireworks, or a car backfiring can remind someone of gunfire or explosions.
  • Crowded places: Being in a crowd can make some people feel trapped or unsafe, reminding them of dangerous situations in combat.
  • Certain smells: Smells like burning, smoke, or certain foods can trigger memories of being in a war zone.
  • News reports: Watching news about wars or seeing images of combat can bring back painful memories.
  • Anniversaries: Some dates, like the anniversary of a battle or a friend’s death, can trigger strong emotions and memories.
  • Uniforms or gear: Seeing military uniforms, equipment, or vehicles can remind someone of their time in combat.
  • Conversations: Talking about their experiences or hearing others talk about similar events can also be a trigger.

4 Combat PTSD Symptoms

People with combat PTSD can experience a variety of symptoms. Unfortunately, some symptoms can be extremely disruptive.

1) Flashbacks and nightmares

Flashbacks are vivid memories where a person feels they’re back in a traumatic event. It can be so real that they feel the same fear and stress as if it’s happening again. Nightmares are bad dreams about a traumatic event that can disrupt sleep and make it hard to feel rested.

2) Avoidance

People with PTSD often avoid places, people, or activities that remind them of the trauma. This can include avoiding loud noises, crowded places, or certain conversations. They might also avoid discussing their feelings or memories because it is too painful.

3) Hyperarousal

This means always being on edge or alert and expecting danger. This can include being easily startled, having trouble sleeping, or being irritable. People might also have problems concentrating because they are always looking for danger.

4) Negative changes in mood and thoughts

People with PTSD can have negative thoughts about themselves or others. They might feel guilty, hopeless, or detached from loved ones. They can also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling happy or positive emotions.

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How Does PTSD Affect Veterans Their Daily Life?

PTSD can make daily life challenging for veterans. Here are some ways it can affect them.

Difficulty sleeping

Many veterans with PTSD have trouble sleeping. They might have nightmares or wake up frequently during the night. This can leave them feeling tired and worn out during the day.

Trouble focusing

PTSD can make it hard to concentrate. Veterans might struggle to stay focused on tasks at work. This can affect their performance and make it hard to complete everyday activities.

Avoiding people and places

Veterans with PTSD often avoid situations that remind them of their trauma. This can mean avoiding crowds, loud noises, or even certain people. 

Feeling isolated

PTSD can make veterans feel alone or disconnected from others. They might feel like no one understands what they are going through. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.

Emotional ups and downs

PTSD can cause strong emotions. Veterans might feel very sad, angry, or scared. These feelings can come on suddenly and be very intense. This can make it hard to maintain stable relationships with family and friends.

Physical symptoms

PTSD doesn’t just affect the mind – it can also cause physical problems. Veterans might experience headaches, stomach issues, or chronic pain. These symptoms can add to the stress and make daily life even harder.

Trouble with work and school

Some veterans have trouble keeping a job or doing well in school because of the symptoms of PTSD. Difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and emotional struggles can make it hard to meet responsibilities and perform well.

Flashbacks

Veterans with PTSD might have flashbacks, where they feel like they are reliving their traumatic experiences. This can happen unexpectedly, making it hard for people to focus on the present moment.

Veterans with PTSD should seek help. Therapists, doctors, and support groups can offer strategies and support to manage symptoms.

Treatments & Recovery for PTSD in Combat Veterans

There are many treatments available for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Here are some common approaches:

  • Trauma-focused CBT: Trauma-focused CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps veterans understand their thoughts and learn how to change their feelings and reactions. It focuses on how their thinking patterns affect their emotions and behavior.
  • EMDR for PTSD: EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) combines CBT with exposure therapy. While thinking about a traumatic event, veterans move their eyes in a specific way, guided by a therapist. This can help them process the trauma and build confidence.
  • Group therapy: Talking about emotions and trauma with other veterans who have PTSD can help. It provides understanding and support, making it easier to focus on the present than the past.
  • Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment calmly and clearly. It helps veterans deal with stress and pressures more calmly, improving their well-being.
  • CFT: CFT (compassion-focused therapy) blends techniques from CBT with ideas from psychology and Buddhism. It helps veterans feel compassion for themselves and others. It teaches them to experience inner warmth and safety, which helps in healing.
  • Medications: Doctors can prescribe medications to manage symptoms like depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. These medications streamline daily life for veterans.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Physical activities like walking or biking can reduce stress and improve mood. A balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can boost health. Regular sleep schedules and relaxing bedtime routines are essential for rest.
  • Family support: Family members can offer love and encouragement. Family therapy can improve communication and strengthen relationships.

If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD, call 844-759-0999 to get help.

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Start Insurance-Covered PTSD Treatment at Connections

We offer PTSD combat veterans treatment at Connections in Southern California. We are happy to work with major insurance providers to ensure you get the necessary care.

When you choose inpatient mental health treatment at Connections, you will join a small number of others dealing with similar issues. We keep group sizes small, so you get lots of personal attention and peer support.

PTSD treatment at Connections is personalized due to the unique nature of all mental health conditions. Access medications, talk therapy, counseling, family therapy, and holistic treatments. Inpatient treatment at Connections can help you feel and function better.

Call our recovery experts today to begin treatment for PTSD at 844-759-0999.

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