Last Updated: February 16, 2023
PTSD treatment for veterans can help with overcoming trauma associated with combat and other duty-related stressors.
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Veterans may need treatment for PTSD, given the stress and trauma of their work. If you are a veteran with PTSD, it’s important to seek quality treatment that considers your specific needs. The Recovery Village Columbus offers programs for PTSD tailored to the unique needs of veterans.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric condition in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, but those who do benefit from mental health treatment. If you’re wondering whether you have PTSD, it’s helpful to understand the symptoms of this condition.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
The following signs and symptoms are indicative of PTSD, as they are part of the diagnostic criteria for the condition:
- Unwanted, upsetting memories of the traumatic event
- Ongoing, unwanted dreams related to the event
- Flashbacks of the event
- Extreme distress in response to reminders of the event
- Physiological reactions, such as sweating or trembling, when exposed to reminders of the event
- Trying to suppress memories of the event
- Attempting to avoid people, locations or conversations that bring up memories of the event
- Loss of memory of certain aspects of the event
- Developing negative beliefs about oneself, the world or other people, such as believing the world is an unsafe place
- Blaming oneself for the traumatic event
- Experiencing ongoing negative emotions, such as shame, anger or fear
- Lack of interest in usual activities
- Feeling detached from other people
- Inability to experience positive emotions like love and joy
- Outbursts of anger and physical or verbal aggression toward others
- Recklessness and self-destructive behavior
- Being extremely vigilant of surroundings
- Startling easily
- Having trouble sleeping
- Difficulty with concentration
PTSD in Veterans
Because of their exposure to life-threatening experiences during combat, veterans are at risk of developing PTSD. While there is variation in prevalence estimates, a review of research on PTSD in veterans shows that 7.7%–17% experience PTSD at some point in their lifetimes.
PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans
There is a link between PTSD and substance abuse in veterans. In fact, studies show that PTSD is more common in veterans with a history of heavy substance abuse.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released the following statistics regarding PTSD and substance abuse in veteran populations:
- Over 20% of veterans with PTSD have a substance use disorder.
- Nearly one-third of veterans seeking substance use disorder treatment have a PTSD diagnosis.
- After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one out of 10 veterans receiving services at the VA had a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Some veterans with PTSD may use substances like alcohol or other drugs to help them cope with PTSD symptoms. For example, they may use alcohol to treat sleep disturbances or numb their negative emotions, but ultimately, they develop an alcoholic addiction.
If you’re seeking programs for veterans with PTSD, FORTITUDE offers a specialty treatment track just for this population.
Why Some Veterans Don’t Seek Treatment for PTSD
Despite the high prevalence of PTSD in veterans, many don’t seek treatment. In fact, research shows that as many as half of veterans referred to PTSD treatment do not engage in such services.
Reasons for not seeking treatment include:
- Delays and inefficiencies in the treatment system
- Negative experiences with providers
- Discomfort with the treatment environment
- Difficulty navigating the treatment system
Concerns about stigma and not being ready to participate in treatment have also been identified as barriers to seeking help.
Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission
Our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need. At The Recovery Village Columbus, our FORTITUDE specialty track for veterans and first responders offers:
- Exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers
- Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and veteran-specific care
- Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together
- EMDR: A revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms
PTSD Treatment for Veterans
Veterans with PTSD symptoms that interfere with daily functioning would benefit from seeking treatment. Given the high prevalence of PTSD and related problems among these professionals, several treatments have been developed to address their needs.
PTSD treatments that show promise include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Research has shown that CBT, which helps people develop coping skills, effectively treats PTSD. In CBT, veterans can also learn to replace unhelpful thoughts with healthier, more rational ways of thinking so that negative views of the world are not so prominent.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT is a common treatment option for PTSD. This type of treatment helps veterans identify their “automatic thoughts” related to PTSD and then helps them reprocess the event and think about it differently. This helps them overcome maladaptive thoughts and beliefs about the event.
- EMDR: Short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, EMDR has the patient think about a traumatic event while engaging in specific eye movements. A recent study found this treatment effective for professionals coping with trauma symptoms from active duty.
- Motivational Interviewing: Commonly used in substance abuse treatment, motivational interviewing is a non-confrontational approach that can help veterans correct unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, drinking or poor stress management.
- Psychoeducation/Life Skills: Sometimes, veterans with PTSD may be unaware they are experiencing a mental health condition. They may not link their behaviors and emotions to PTSD or be ashamed of seeking help. Education can help them better understand their condition and learn ways to manage it. Life skills training can also provide veterans with information on healthy stress management. Such treatments have been widely used with professionals exposed to trauma on the job.
- Exposure therapy: This treatment modality requires patients to describe their traumatic experience in detail and confront frightening stimuli until they experience an anxiety reduction.
Medication for PTSD in Veterans
Veterans with symptoms of PTSD may benefit from taking medication to manage them and participating in therapy. Some beneficial medications for PTSD symptoms include:
- Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
The best medication can differ based on a patient’s unique needs and circumstances. SSRIs are considered the first line of medical treatment for PTSD.
What Is the Success Rate of PTSD Treatment for Veterans?
The success rate of PTSD treatment depends on the specific treatment modality used and each patient’s unique needs. A recent study of PTSD treatment for veterans found that the following factors were associated with success:
- Attending more trauma-focused therapy sessions increases the chances of success.
- Participating in individual and group psychotherapy is more beneficial than group therapy.
- Exposure and cognitive therapies are more effective than EMDR for veterans with PTSD.
FORTITUDE Can Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD due to serving in the armed forces, FORTITUDE is here to help. Our specialty track is designed to address your experiences with licensed therapists and clinicians trained in clinical interventions for veterans.
The FORTITUDE program treats substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions like PTSD, depression and anxiety. We offer a full continuum of care, including:
- Medical detox services
- Residential and outpatient treatment
- CBT, CPT and EMDR therapy for eligible patients
- First-responder-only group, individual and family therapy
Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn more about the FORTITUDE program for veterans and get started.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.