Post-Traumatic Stress Defined

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adulthood or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal, given a bit of time.

People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

PTSD can be treated. Early treatment is important and may help reduce long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not know that they have PTSD or do not seek treatment.

Re-experiencing event

Involves reliving the traumatic event via triggers and/or memories, known as “flashbacks”.

  • Nightmares
  • Sight, smells, or sounds such as news reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire can trigger the memory of the event.
  • Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror like the feelings they had when the event took place.

Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

Involves changes in the way you think about yourself or others because of trauma.

  • Negative feelings toward other people and will stay away from them.
  • Inability to remember parts of the traumatic event or to talk about it.
  • You may blame yourself or others for trauma.
  • Decreased interest in things that were once enjoyable.

Avoidance and numbing symptoms
Involves avoiding people or places that remind you of the event.

  • Avoid crowds and/or activities because of perceived danger.
  • Avoid sights, sounds, smells, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event. Some people find that they try to distract themselves as one way to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.
  • Avoid thoughts, emotions or numbing through self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.

Arousal – changes in reactions

Involves increased emotional arousal including hyper-vigilance and paranoia.

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Startled by a loud noise or surprise
  • Experience outbursts of anger or irritability
  • Self-destructive behavior

An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during a given year. This represents a small portion of those who have experienced at least one traumatic event; 60.7% of men and 51.2% of women reported at least one traumatic event. The traumatic events most often associated with PTSD for men are rape, combat exposure, childhood neglect, and childhood physical abuse. The most traumatic events for women are rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon, and childhood physical abuse.

About 30 percent of the men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD. An additional 20 to 25 percent have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.”

*The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.

Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.

Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Current estimates of PTSD in military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan is about 10-18% who are believed to have PTSD.

It is very common for other conditions to occur along with PTSD such as:

  • Anger
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Chronic Pain
  • Sleep Problems
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Grief

More than half of men with PTSD also have problems with alcohol. The next most common co-occurring problems in men are depression, followed by conduct disorder, and then problems with drugs.

In women, the most common co-occurring problem is depression. Just under half of women with PTSD also experience depression. The next most common co-occurring problems in women are specific fears, social anxiety, and then problems with alcohol.

People with PTSD often have problems functioning. In general, people with PTSD have more unemployment, divorce or separation, spouse abuse and chance of being fired than people without PTSD. Vietnam veterans with PTSD were found to have many problems with family and other interpersonal relationships, problems with employment, and increased incidents of violence.

Suicide is another PTSD related occurrence. Going through a traumatic event may increase a person’s suicide risk. The risk may be affected by how intense and how often the combat trauma was.

  • “Why is suicide risk higher in trauma survivors? It may be because of the symptoms of PTSD or it may be due to other mental health problems, like depression. Studies show that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD. Some studies link suicide risk in those with PTSD to distressing trauma memories, anger, and poor control of impulses. Further, suicide risk is higher for those with PTSD who have certain styles of coping with stress, such as not expressing feelings.”*
  • “Research suggests that for Veterans with PTSD, the strongest link to both suicide attempts and thinking about suicide is guilt related to combat. Many Veterans have very disturbing thoughts and extreme guilt about actions taken during times of war. These thoughts can often overwhelm the Veteran and make it hard for him or her to deal with the intense feelings.”*

According to the 2019 nation Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report suicide rate among Veterans have been found to be affected by economic disparities, homelessness, unemployment, level of military service connected to disability status, community connection and personal health and wellbeing.

Total Number of Suicides increased from 2005-2017: 20+ Veterans every day take their own life.

Unfortunately, suicide is all to often an outcome for combat Veterans with PTSD. While it is unclear exactly how many of these suicides are driven by PTSD and while there is certainly no all-encompassing explanation for suicide, there are direct correlations between PTSD among combat Veterans and suicide by Veterans. PTSD has a powerful impact on combat Veterans and their families and too often untreated PTSD can lead to suicide.

It is important for both Veterans and their loved ones to know THEY ARE NOT ALONE in their struggle and that there are hundreds of resources and thousands of people willing to talk and to help at any given moment. The tragedy of suicide has an extensive reach and it is estimated that one single death by suicide effects and average of 135 surviving individuals. If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts do not wait to reach out; help is only a phone call away.

Getting help with PTSD can help benefit a person who is having suicidal thoughts. If you are ever having suicidal thoughts get help immediately.

If you are a combat Veteran call 1-877-717-PTSD (7873)
Available 24 hours, a combat Veteran will answer the call.

Our Veteran mentors have lived similar experiences and trauma that many warriors have gone through and understand how difficult it can be to transition back to civilian life and to feel at peace again. At the PTSD Foundation of America, we work hard to promote suicide awareness and our goal is to prevent as many Veteran suicides as possible.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Press 1 Veterans Crisis Line, available 24 hours a day.

The PTSD Foundation of America is committed to helping combat Veterans suffering with PTSD find acceptance and healing for the invisible wounds of war. We have and continue to expand a network of individuals, churches, and other organizations to provide a “corps of compassion” to assist veterans and their families in dealing with the symptoms of PTSD.

We also operate our Warrior & Family Groups, also referred to as Combat Trauma Groups, which are fellowships for combat veterans and their families to share their experiences, testimonies of healing, compassion, and hope in overcoming the invisible wounds of war. Participants are required to be combat Veterans or family members of those who have served in combat and be willing to face the challenges of managing post-traumatic stress and the related conditions.

The Warrior & Family Groups, both, utilize reference manuals which include workbooks developed for the Military Ministry “Bridges to Healing” Series entitled, The Combat Trauma Healing Manual, by Chris Adsit and When War Comes Home by Chris Adist, Rahnella Adsit, and Marshele Carter Waddell. Materials are free of charge to residents of Camp Hope and participants in the Combat Trauma Support Groups (Veterans and Families).

These manuals teach faith principles and apply coping tools for recognizing triggers and managing the symptoms related to PTSD. The groups are not a treatment program, but rather a peer coaching and support program whose primary purpose is helping combat veterans find healing, balance, and positive re-integration with their families and in society.

The Family Groups exist to assist and support family members (spouse, parent, sibling, child, caretaker, etc.) of PTSD sufferers. The group facilitators lead the members of the group through ways to manage their own health and mental well-being and to bring understanding and healing in their family.

To the veterans and loved ones, we too are Veterans, welcome home and know that You Are Not Alone! You do not have to continue to carry the burdens of war on your own…we are here to help!


While peer and small group support opportunities encompass much of our program, they are augmented by necessary one-on-one PTSD Mentoring time with trained mentors. We utilize a faith-based, step program as the foundation of the Camp Hope recovery program, individual mentor sessions, the Combat Trauma Support Groups and in working with veterans and families nationwide committed to healing via multiple media avenues.

We have multiple mentors on staff who spend time with each resident on a daily basis each week. All are former residents themselves who have learned to apply the foundational principles and found success in working them out in their lives. Each one has a story to tell and they each have a passion for paying forward what they were taught at Camp Hope through the program.