May marks the onset of Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise both awareness and understanding regarding the various ways in which a person’s mental health can impact other areas of their life. However, veterans of the armed forces navigate a unique lifestyle that is filled with its own challenges, many of which can have lasting mental health implications on civilian life. Understanding the various challenges veterans face and the dangers of untreated mental health disorders can empower veterans and their loved ones to take action to best support veterans in their transition to a healthy and sustainable civilian life.
The Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders Among Veterans
Mental health disorders come in a variety of forms, and there is no one, single way in which mental health disorders may manifest among veterans. However, it is common that veterans of any branch of the military will experience some form of mental health challenges throughout their time on active duty, or after leaving service and starting a new civilian life. In 2018 alone, over 1.7 million veterans pursued programs through the VA to specifically address mental health concerns. However, this does not mean that there are not more veterans who struggle with their own challenges that pursue other kinds of treatment or those who are not pursuing treatment at all.
Some may not understand how various treatment programs can help support the needed change for veterans. Others may not recognize the need for help in the first place, being unable to identify signs of mental health disorders or reluctant to admit their effects on each veteran’s life. However, understanding the various mental health disorders common among veterans can help each person better understand and identify mental health disorders and take appropriate action to find professional care for a healthier daily life.
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Identifying Common Mental Health Disorders in Veterans
Each individual will have their own unique journey with mental health needs and recovery. However, being able to identify the signs and symptoms of various common mental health disorders among veterans is necessary to pursue effective treatment. While each journey to recovery will be personal, identifying the effects of various mental health disorders among veterans is always the first step toward overcoming their effects.
Anxiety and PTSD
Some of the most common challenges veterans face in civilian life are the continued effects of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Exposure to life-threatening situations or active warzones can have lasting and profound effects on veterans. For some, these feelings of anxiety or danger can persist long into civilian life, informing how veterans perceive their environments, or birthing feelings of danger, stress, and much more. Other symptoms of anxiety or PTSD in veterans include:
- Constantly feeling “on edge”
- Seeing any kind of stimuli through a lens of danger or uncertainty
- Feeling easily frightened
- Hypertension in the muscles
- Feelings of anger or frustration
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Invasive thoughts or flashbacks to traumatic events
- Engagement in self-destructive behavior
Depression Among Veterans
Veterans can also experience intense feelings of depression following their time in service. For some, depression can stem from the challenging experiences of the military. However, others may experience depression upon their transition out of military service. Leaving the established cultures of military life and moving into an entirely new civilian lifestyle can bring feelings of longing, isolation, and depression as a veteran may feel ostracized or otherwise culturally disconnected from these communities. Some of the common symptoms of depression among veterans can include:
- Persistent feelings of intense sadness or helplessness
- Intense feelings of lethargy
- Difficulty focusing or motivating oneself to work towards a particular goal or ambition
- No longer enjoying previous hobbies or interests
- Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
Depression can also last for long periods of time, with each episode lasting days or even weeks. Professional treatment to address the unique sources of depression among veterans is crucial for creating a plan to address the mental health of veterans.
Veterans are exposed to life-threatening situations regularly. Unfortunately, not all who go on tour will necessarily come home, and this loss can be devastating for families and fellow brothers and sisters in arms. Survivor’s guilt can bring intense feelings, with veterans questioning their own mortality or blaming themselves for the loss of fellow service members. Veterans with survivor’s guilt may also:
- Experience flashbacks to these traumatic events
- Blame themselves for the outcome of such events, even if aspects of it were out of their control
- Experience intense guilt and shame regarding the events
Addressing survivor’s guilt in veterans is incredibly difficult, and many veterans may feel that they somehow “deserve” these negative feelings or compromised self-worth. Professional treatment for addressing survivor’s guilt may be necessary to challenge pervasive self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
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Finding Treatment for Veterans’ Mental Health
Veterans of the armed forces are uniquely susceptible to many mental health disorders, from depression and anxiety to trauma and survivor’s guilt and more. Even further, flashbacks, guilt, shame, physical injury, and more can all birth additional mental health disorders or challenging feelings. Each of these mental health disorders can also facilitate other self-destructive behaviors, particularly the use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with an array of negative feelings.
Identifying mental health disorders in veterans is just the first step. Pursuing dedicated veteran-specific, trauma-informed treatment at luxury mental health facilities can be necessary to create the most effective approach to a healthy civilian life while overcoming mental health disorders of any kind among veterans.
Each veteran’s mental health can profoundly impact their daily civilian life. We at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to addressing and overcoming the effects of mental health disorders on veterans’ daily lives. Our unique approach to healing at our luxury mental health facilities in Hawaii can help not only identify the need for professional treatment but also personalize each step of the recovery journey for you and your veteran loved ones. We blend proven therapeutic practices with the unique spiritual and healing advantages of the beautiful Hawaiian islands, creating a personalized approach to holistic healing for veterans and families alike. For more information on how we can help you through mental health challenges, call us at (866) 390-5070.