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PTSD Awareness: How to Recognize and Treat Symptoms in Veterans

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. It can disrupt the daily activities and overall quality of life for anyone. PTSD is also often an invisible wound that veterans can confront during service or after their service ends.

In Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior Survey,* 76% of the veterans surveyed self-reported PTSD.

The effects of PTSD are far-reaching. It's a condition that can be misunderstood by the general public, fostering a sense of isolation for those affected. June, recognized as PTSD Awareness Month, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about this condition, its impacts, and the various ways to support veterans experiencing symptoms.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health diagnosis that can occur after a person has experienced a traumatic event – regardless of military status or combat experience.

What Causes PTSD in Veterans?

For veterans, traumatic events that cause PTSD might be:

  • Witnessing death or physical injury
  • Acts of war
  • Sexual abuse
  • Accidents
  • Natural disaster
  • Physical violence
  • Moral injury

Military sexual trauma (MST), which includes any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while a service member is in the military, can cause PTSD. In WWP’s most recent Warrior Survey,* one in 10 warriors WWP serves reported experiencing MST during their service; 44.6% of all female and 2.9% of all male warriors report experiencing MST.

It’s important to remember that witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event doesn’t mean a person will develop PTSD. It also means servicemen and women do not need to be in combat to develop PTSD. While research is still ongoing to determine why some people develop PTSD from a traumatizing event and others do not, PTSD still requires a proper diagnosis and treatment from a medical health professional.

What are Symptoms of PTSD in Veterans?

PTSD symptoms may include recurring memories or nightmares and intense physical reactions to reminders of the trauma. PTSD may also cause negative changes in mood or thinking.

PTSD can present itself in several ways, but is typically categorized by four symptoms:

  • Intrusion: Reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, and frightened thoughts that can result in physical symptoms such as racing pulse, sweating, pain, feeling sick, and tremors.
  • Avoidance: Intentionally avoiding thoughts, situations, people, places, activities, objects, or feelings that trigger recall of the traumatic event.
  • Hypervigilance and reactivity: Feeling “on edge,” always “on alert,” tense, jittery, and anxious, resulting in irritability, trouble sleeping, being easily startled, angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, self-medicating, or self-destructive behaviors.
  • Negative thoughts or mood: Experiencing negative thoughts and feelings about oneself, the event, or others; loss of interest in hobbies; and frequent feelings of guilt, shame, or blame.

How Can I Help Someone Who Has PTSD?

  • Learn about PTSD and how it can affect the whole family.
  • Listen to the individual when they say they’re not ready to do something.
  • Be there for them, without trying to fix them.
  • Encourage them to seek treatment and participate in activities. Find support foryourself.
  • Recognize symptoms, even in yourself. Living with someone with PTSD can sometimes result in secondary PTSD – when the partner or family member feels symptoms that are similar to PTSD.
  • #CombatStigma: Challenge the stigma surrounding PTSD and mental health. Be mindful of your language and attitudes. Promote open, judgment-free conversations about mental health in your circles. Encourage others to see PTSD not as a weakness, but as a sign of a person's resilience.

How Does WWP Help Warriors Manage PTSD?

  • Connection
    WWP connection events and peer support are important in helping veterans and their families find support.
  • Emotional support
    Family members and veterans can access 1:1 emotional support through programs like WWP Talk. This program is a nonclinical, telephonic, goal-setting program designed to help warriors and family members plan individualized paths toward personal growth.
  • Adventure-based therapy
    Through connection events, WWP warriors can access exciting adventures like mountain climbing, surfing, equine therapy, and water sports. In addition, Project Odyssey® is a 12-week, life-changing program that includes a week of adventure-based activities followed by weekly support.
  • Outpatient care at a leading medical center
    Warrior Care Network® (WCN) is a 2-week outpatient program at four academic centers. It’s followed by continued care after you return home and includes additional care for family members. WCN is a hub of expertise in PTSD treatment, and 95% of participating warriors complete the program and successfully reduce their PTSD symptoms.
  • Ongoing well-being
    WWP offers physical health and wellness, adaptive sports, virtual challenges, career counseling, caregiver support, and both in-person and online community.
PTSD Awareness infographic

Learn more about PTSD. Click to DOWNLOAD the infographic.


Other FAQs

  • How many veterans have PTSD?
    In Wounded Warrior Project's Warrior Survey,* 76% of the veterans WWP serves self-reported PTSD. 
  • When is PTSD Awareness Month?
    June is PTSD Awareness Month. In 2010, the U.S. Senate designated June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day. In 2014, the observation was expanded to the entire month of June.
  • When was PTSD first diagnosed in veterans?
    Accounts of psychological symptoms from military trauma have been documented throughout history. Hippocrates detailed the experience of a soldier returning home from battle in a poem as early as 50 B.C. The American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) marked the start of formal medical attempts to address the problems faced by military veterans exposed to combat. 
  • Do all combat veterans get PTSD?
    No, not all combat veterans get PTSD. While combat is a risk factor, not everyone will develop PTSD. 

PTSD is a daily battle that thousands of veterans face. It's often silent and invisible, yet it touches every aspect of a person's life and relationships.

As we observe PTSD Awareness Month in June, we recognize awareness needs to extend beyond one month. Veterans have served and sacrificed for our freedom and security; it is our duty to stand with them in their journey to manage the challenges they face in the aftermath of their service.

If you think you or a loved one has PTSD, please contact the WWP Resource Center at 888.997.2586 or Help is available to you.

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

*Warrior Survey, Wave 2 (conducted June 15 - Aug. 24, 2022)

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