You Don’t Have to See Combat to Get PTSD From War

Even though the Fort Hood shooter didn’t fight while in Iraq, he still could have developed posttraumatic-stress disorder.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
April 3, 2014, 12:16 p.m.

There are many de­tails re­main­ing about the gun­man who opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing four, in­clud­ing him­self, and in­jur­ing 16 more. But here are some key facts about Spc. Ivan Lopez: He served four months in Ir­aq, he was be­ing treated for un­dia­gnosed posttrau­mat­ic-stress dis­order, and he was not in com­bat dur­ing his de­ploy­ment.

In this type of situ­ation, it might be easy to over­look someone who suffered men­tal an­guish without ac­tu­ally see­ing com­bat. But there are ele­ments of war that are dis­turb­ing bey­ond shoot­ing a weapon and be­ing shot at.

So can a sol­dier get PTSD without ac­tu­ally see­ing com­bat?

“Yes, you can,” says Craig Bry­an, the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Na­tion­al Cen­ter for Vet­er­ans Stud­ies. “It’s ac­tu­ally an is­sue the sci­ence in the last sev­er­al years has been catch­ing up with.”

In the past year, the Dia­gnost­ic and Stat­ist­ic­al Manu­al of Men­tal Dis­orders, which clas­si­fies men­tal dis­orders for the Amer­ic­an Psy­chi­at­ric As­so­ci­ation, changed its cri­ter­ia for PTSD to no longer re­quire that a per­son must have been in a life-threat­en­ing situ­ation.

The APA found that many mem­bers of the mil­it­ary and vet­er­ans of the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan, even though they didn’t think they were go­ing to die, mani­fes­ted the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with PTSD.

“They have been ex­posed to at­ro­cit­ies or oth­er events that have a sig­ni­fic­ant ef­fect on their world view, sense of self, etc.,” said Bry­an, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fess­or at the Uni­versity of Utah. “People can struggle with men­tal-health prob­lems even if they haven’t been in com­bat.”

Ex­amples of those kinds of events range from see­ing dead bod­ies to see­ing oth­er people kill each oth­er to smelling rot­ting flesh.

In this case, the gun­man may have wit­nessed dis­turb­ing im­ages that would even­tu­ally re­quire treat­ment for de­pres­sion, anxi­ety, and be­ha­vi­or­al is­sues. Those de­tails are sure to come up.

One of the ma­jor struggles for psy­chi­at­ric pro­fes­sion­als, however, is that they don’t have the cap­ab­il­it­ies of de­term­in­ing who is go­ing to be­come vi­ol­ent and who’s not, Bry­an said.

But in the last dec­ade, through a large num­ber of clin­ic­al tri­als that the mil­it­ary has helped fund, they’re get­ting closer to resolv­ing this is­sue.

And the situ­ation is ur­gent. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post-Kais­er Fam­ily Found­a­tion poll, 31 per­cent of Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan vet­er­ans say their men­tal and emo­tion­al health is worse than be­fore the wars. If it re­mains a prob­lem, mil­it­ary sui­cides and mass shoot­ings are likely to con­tin­ue.

What We're Following See More »
STATE HAS UNTIL MONDAY TO RESPOND
DOJ: North Carolina’s CB2 Violates Civil Rights Act
40 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Department of Justice officials told North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that "the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX—a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. The department gave state officials until Monday to respond 'by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.'"

Source:
UTAH REPUBLICAN
Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Source:
GOOGLE SEARCHES SPIKE
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
14 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
VEEPSTAKES
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

NO MORE CUTS
House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Source:
×