What is combat trauma?, Recognizing Combat Stress, How to deal with this trauma
Exposure to combat and operational stress can leave emotional scars that linger after deployment. While every individual reacts differently, some problems service members and veterans may notice after combat or operational stress are listed below.
- Anger or Aggressive Behavior
Although anger is a natural and healthy emotion that may have helped you do your job while deployed, intense anger can scare people and push them away. Aggressive, hurtful behavior can also cause problems with family, friends, co-workers, and the legal system.
- Alcohol/Drug Abuse
While using alcohol or drugs to numb yourself ("self medicating") might seem to work in the moment, it can prevent you from helping yourself and leave you vulnerable to more problems (psychological, medical, legal) in the long run.
Depression involves feeling down or sad more days than not. It is different from normal feelings of sadness, grief, or low energy. You may feel hopeless, guilty, or worthless, and you might think about hurting or killing yourself.
- Suicidal Thoughts
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans should press "1" after being connected to reach the Veterans Hotline. You can also visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call a counselor, doctor, or 911. Help is available.
- Moral Injury
A moral injury is a lasting and powerful psychological wound that is caused by doing, failing to prevent, or observing acts that go against deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Veterans who experience moral injury may experience a reluctance to get close to other people, difficulty trusting others or themselves, and a loss of faith or spirituality.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic deployment experiences, such as threat to life, the loss of others, and seeing the wounded and the dying, can leave lasting emotional scars. PTSD in war veterans is a common condition that can develop after you have gone through such experiences. If you have PTSD, you may find yourself reliving deployment events over and over again in the form of unwanted memories or nightmares. You may try to avoid situations or experiences that trigger these memories or otherwise remind you of the traumatic event. You may also feel numb, have difficulty communicating with other people, and even have trouble feeling loving feelings toward others. You may also find that you feel "on high alert" and irritable all the time, making it hard to relax, sleep, or concentrate.
Read next section to find out if mental health treatment is right for you or go back to Combat Stress Recovery Program page.