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November 5, 2019

Is PTSD Common After War?

Last updated on March 28, 2021

Is PTSD common after war?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects roughly 8 million adults in the U.S. yearly. While much of the general public suffers from this condition, the rates are especially high in veterans. PTSD can be very common in veterans after the war, this blog will be covering what you can do after the war if you deal with PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD has been defined as an overexpression of normal mental and physiological processes, more specifically the fight-or-flight-response. The flood of hormones that occurs in your body in order to save your life during a hazardous situation becomes imbalanced, and what is designed to be a helpful response turns into a debilitating condition. 

Symptoms of PTSD may include:

  • Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks and unwanted memories where the initial trauma is relived
  • Increased anxiety or edginess
  • Irritability
  • Jumpiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Negative changes in mood and thinking
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Depression
  • Isolation

Once called “shell shock”, “combat fatigue”, or “war neurosis”, the prevalence of PTSD in veterans has been treated more seriously since the Vietnam War. 

PTSD in Vietnam Veterans

The last major study of Vietnam Veterans and PTSD occurred during the late-1980s (titled the National Vietnam Veteran Readjustment Study). In that study, it was found that 15% of Vietnam veterans were currently diagnosed with PTSD. 

However, it has been estimated that nearly 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD during the course of their lives. 

Vietnam has the highest number of veterans recorded to have experienced PTSD. This represents the very trying nature of that conflict 

PTSD in Persian Gulf War Veterans

Despite the relatively short amount of time troops spent deployed during the Persian Gulf War, the trauma of that conflict has been notable. 

On average studies find that 12% of veterans in the Persian Gulf War (who were deployed) have suffered from PTSD. However, some studies have found that number to be as high as 24%.

PTSD in Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq)

The full impact of these wars is still yet to be known. However, the most recent studies indicate that the number of those suffering from PTSD is between 11-20%. 

It has also been found that those who served in OEF and OIF have had symptoms that often persist more than a year after they had returned at a rate higher than other veterans. 


Every war leaves a trail of destruction in its wake, and psychological scarring is proven to be a part of that. 

In the general population, between 50-60% of all people in the U.S. report the experience of a traumatic experience during the course of their lives. 

For comparison, the veterans on the ground of OEF and OIF report a traumatic experience at a much higher rate. 

  • 92% have been attacked or ambushed
  • 95% have seen dead bodies
  • 95% have been shot at
  • 87% know someone who was seriously injured or killed

Tellingly, studies estimate that PTSD has increased in more modern conflicts when compared to wars earlier in the 20th century, such as World War I and II.  

This is believed to be caused by the nature of modern warfare and the new challenges and pressures it presents. Fewer and fewer individuals are seeing active combat, giving them a smaller pool of individuals whom they can share their experiences with. Also, the idea of “unanimous victory” has abated, meaning that veterans may struggle more with the reasoning behind their sacrifices and experiences.

Overall, it is clear that PTSD is extremely common in those who have experienced warfare, with nearly 1 in 5 living veterans exposed to active combat having suffered from this condition. 

If you are a veteran who has seen active combat and experienced any of the symptoms listed above, it is highly recommended that you reach out. Find out if you’d be entitled to receive compensation for your condition on top of receiving the help needed to get your life back to full health. 

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About the Author


VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Independent Medical Opinions & Nexus Statements (Medical Nexus Letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.


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