Ptsd only affects military?

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Many a person associates PTSD with the military. Let's face it: going to war is good media. The media provides what the public wants to watch, and what the public watches funds the salaries of those who produce the stories. Lots of watchers equals lots of money, which equals more stories about the military and those military who obtain PTSD. Simple arithmetic answers why the myth exists.

What's worse is that civilian society perpetuates the myth. We want to watch news on rape, torture, murder--all the bad stuff that happens. What we don't care for is the aftermath. The limited times when we do want that sad yet uplifting story of survival, that aftermath is limited to a person or small group, giving the impression that PTSD has travelled no further.

The best way to demonstrate that PTSD is more pervasive in civilian society than military brings us back to arithmetic. Statistics and some basic math will answer this myth best.

Let's use the United States of America as our statistical project. Most developed countries have similar statistical outcomes, some higher, some lower. Under-developed countries, if they cared about mental health, would demonstrate much higher civilian mental health statistics than presented here.

The population of the US as of 2014 is 319 million.

Data is somewhat hard to distinguish due to the difficulty of garnering accurate mental health statistics. We can observe this deficiency of data by looking to the US National Institute of Mental Health website for PTSD statistics. NIMH cites that the average 12 month prevalence for people suffering from PTSD is 3.5%. Of those suffering, approximately 36.6% are classified severe.

So, according to the US NIMH, in any given year approximately 11.1 million people have PTSD, of which approximately 4 million of that figure are severe cases.

Now we use a source that sifted for data at a more precise level, digging through study results and institutions not reporting to the NIMH. Dead Link Removed. It is averaged that at any given time within the USA, approximately 6% - 10% of the population are suffering PTSD. This figure increases and decreases within the various socio-economic areas. This changes the NIMH figure from 11.1 million to now 19.1 - 31.9 million suffering PTSD. Of that figure, it is estimated approximately 5% are considered lifetime PTSD sufferers, with 960k - 1.6 million classified as severe.

The US military consists of approximately 1.4 million personnel with an additional 850k reserve personnel. Not all personnel deploy on operations, and those at home who get PTSD are insignificant in numbers to worry about in these calculations. Let's use the combined forces--2.25 million personnel. PTSD rates vary significantly for military personnel, averaging 30% for deployed troops. Again, not all these troops are deploying, but we'll use the worst case outcome to prove this myth invalid.

30% of 2.25 million is 675,000 troops with PTSD at any given time. Remember, worst case scenario.

If you wanted to give this the lowest discrepancy possible, use the NIMH data of 11.1 million civilians having PTSD in any given year versus our worst case military of 675,000 in any given year. The numbers just aren't even close, are they?

11.1 million civilians with PTSD, minimum.

675,000 military personnel with PTSD, maximum.

The military are certainly the largest collective group of people that can be isolated for data, though they're not the significant number in the scheme of PTSD within the US population.

To further this point, let's look at just male to female rape. Females comprise approximately 158 million citizens. The approximate ratio for reported sexual assault within a females life is 18%. Actual figures are estimated much higher, these are only those reported and released by the US Department of Justice.

Approximately 28.5 million females report sexual assault. Working with our original figures of 6 - 10% exposure to abnormal trauma obtaining PTSD, we're given 1.7 - 2.8 million females obtaining PTSD from sexual assault. You can transpose this to an ongoing event, maintaining a constant between those recovering and those exposed to trauma.

Sexual assault alone blows combat PTSD out of the water, let alone life-threatening events such as accidents, gun or knife trauma, et cetera.

The math of it is simple; awareness, however, continues to be a challenge.


PTSD is best recognized as a disease related to the military beyond a doubt. When one considers that 1 woman is assaulted every 9 SECONDS in the USA, one must surely realize that the number of women suffering from PTSD is equally astronomical. I have had severe PTSD for the past 2 years, due to domestic violence. When diagnosed, I was shocked – it was a disease solely for the military. My therapist said that nearly everybody has PTSD at some time in their lives – due to the death of a loved one, even. He added that most sufferers get over it in 3 months on their own.

And that for those of us unlucky enough to have PTSD for longer, it never gets better unless treated.

So why is it still associated almost solely with the military? Why no PSA’s warning of the immensely-high suicide rates attributed directly to PTSD?

Domestic Violence and PTSD share one trait: they are subjects never to be discussed. Always swept under the rug. PTSD has a dreadful stigma still from Viet Nam vets, as unfortunate as that is. I have been treated badly simply because I have PTSD. I’m sure countless others have as well. Until more sufferers and others are willing to step up and discuss this disease, it – much like domestic violence – will continue to thrive in darkness, much as do mushrooms.


Erm… You’ve missed out the veterans. You’ve only included serving military personnel which means your numbers have a bloody big gap in there.


There is no big gap, as all trauma categories are relative at any given time, with people recovering and those obtaining PTSD. People are raped now, yet do not obtain PTSD for years, decades, no different to the military. Some get PTSD and leave the service as a result, some get PTSD much later on (delayed onset).

It is all relative to any given period, hence the numbers are fairly accurate.


New Here
I feel as though the general population of PTSD sufferers has been left out of all the focus lately on PTSD. Having always been associated with the military, leads people to believe that only soldiers and people at war suffer from this terrible disorder! That couldn’t be farther from the truth. While I feel compassion and understanding for these PTSD sufferers who serve our country, I also look at it like at least they have a choice weather they want to take the risk of developing PTSD by joining or not joining the military. They go in with eyes open. I wish I had that choice! But when you are a small child in a domestic war zone with an abusive parent, you can’t choose. I am a civilian adult woman 42 years of age suffering severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The first time I was traumatized was at less than 1 year of age. I have had PTSD for 42 years. Lived with trauma and abuse for 21 years. I wish there was more focus on people that are suffering that aren’t in the military. I often think that it is tragic that they served and now have to suffer. But imagine being in a war for 21 years. Against someone who isn’t supposed to be your enemy. And you are just an innocent child! Imagine being raised to only know anger, negativity, fear, distrust. To be forever damaged. I would just like the public to know that there are millions of us who suffer not because we went to fight in another country, but because we fought against abuse, rape, assault, or other severe trauma. Right here in the USA.


I have PTSD from child sexual abuse and rape. I’m not feeling as bad as I used to now but it never really goes away… My ex-boyfriend has PTSD from combat as he’s a veteran. I miss him so much because he was my support group.


Hi Christine,

“I also look at it like at least they have a choice weather they want to take the risk of developing PTSD by joining or not joining the military. They go in with eyes open.”

I wouldn’t say soldiers go in with their eyes open, or even knowing, let alone understanding, PTSD or what it is. Everyone can hear the word, the term, yet have no real understanding of what it means or its consequences, until you have it.

I am a combat veteran, Australian, and PTSD was never discussed, known, or did we have any clue what it was when joining the Army. Yes, all soldiers who join must accept they sign on the dotted line to put themselves in harms way. Absolutely on that point. Nobody though tells you have you have a chance of obtaining PTSD from serving on operations. They may now, recent years, but everything before the last few years — absolutely not.

PTSD is problematic — regardless the trauma type.


New Here
PTSD is best recognized as a disease related to the military beyond a doubt. When one considers that 1...
I am sorry you have been treated badly. Also, I don’t agree with your therapist who says “nearly everybody has PTSD at some time in their lives – due to a death of a loved one” GRIEF is not PTSD, death is all around us beginning as soon as Bambi; Yes when it happens in real life we are jolted, disoriented, shocked and still that is not PTSD anymore than a bad sinus headache is the same as pneumonia; both are painful and debilitating yet one is more so and deadly. Many factors determine if an event is traumatic enough to cause PTSD and of the type to lead to PTSD…often it takes more than one trauma.


New Here
It is easier to feel for a broad category which is defined by sacrifice…ie the military. That I believe is why it gets more attention. perhaps to we sense a collective guilt for their having, as a group, put their lives in danger for us.

Conversely it is hard to care for and about individuals as we don’t know them and there isn’t some quick title with associated characteristic to cling to. TV takes advantage of that instinct by startling us and then telling us via commercials to buy things or eat or take a pill….gives a quick “To do” before we ever know what hit us.

As for “We want to watch news on rape, torture, murder–all the bad stuff that happens.” I wouldn’t say we want to but that we are drawn to it, perhaps out of a desire to DO SOMETHING…a survival instinct deep within us to help ourselves and others too.
I have very complex PTSD and it is exhausting to try and explain to others..even if I just print out a list of the traumas and show the scars on my body I realize it is overwhelming for others to be presented second hand with trauma that their first feeling is going to be they can’t do anything about it and many have busy lives with their own families. Ironically, one protective emotional immune response booster is having a group to identify with, relate to and thereby find support among so the military has many factors that help its PTSD sufferers that victims of childhood abuse do not though of course likely many military PTSD sufferers were victims in childhood and the military trauma was the straw on the camels back, the tipping point that added up to an unbearable load on their psyche


New Here
Anthony, I have a form of PTSD known to Psychologists as Complex PTSD. Trauma is a generalized term that has different levels of exposure. For example, deployed military, surrounded by a constant deadly hostile environment for a period of months results in their “Fear Switch” being turned on the whole time. They see shocking tragedy that the brain cannot process quickly, resulting in a state of shock. In contrast, someone who survives a deadly train crash and sees violent death and destruction may develop PTSD in a matter of hours with a state od shock. The third is Complex PTSD where the person lives in a state of less deadly fear for years. The trauma is less intense with years of constant exposure. This is seen in emotional, brainwashing, threatening and financial spousal abuse which can elevate to physical abuse, including murder.
We must leave behind the thought that trauma happens on only the most violent level. Anytime one person(s) exerts any sort of malicious control over another, PTSD can develop.


Hi Jake,

I am aware of complex PTSD as a name, though is not a diagnosis at this time. Not officially, any way. I will disagree with you about segregating trauma levels. Yes, trauma can happen to anyone at any level, however; that does not make all trauma resulting in PTSD. That is what you’re saying, that all trauma can result in PTSD. That is not factual according to psychiatric experts.

It is not for us to determine what fits a disorder, and what does not. That is chaos. People should not makeup things to suit themselves. We have experts for good reason, as we trust those experts to factor all aspects accordingly and distinguish what is classified one way, and what is classified another.

PTSD is segregated to the most violent and worst type as all lesser trauma is adequately covered by other diagnoses. Everything is not PTSD. People need to stop confusing Post Traumatic Stress with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is an issue at the therapist level, as they use the term PTS and the client thinks that means PTSD. They are not the same thing. PTS is anxiety and possibly depression, as separate diagnoses. PTSD is its own diagnosis which requires violent levels of trauma for diagnosis.

No therapist can diagnose PTSD if the client does not meet criterion A, being: Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. If you did not experience those, you do not have PTSD — you have anxiety, depression, sleep and so forth, disorders.

Silent soldier

Hello everyone i am a bit lost and i am. I need the vent and and express myself. i hurt the one person in the world that matters to me. I did this because the vA failed me so bad, i suffer from PTSD and TBI and they were not listening to me, and only addressing the symptoms from the meds they were given me in the 1st place. It got so bad that i was taking meds to fight the meds that were given to me to fight the other meds. so now because of the neglect from the VA, i got so med up with so many meds that they caused an unbalance in my head that consumed me to a place of hate and angry and i did what bought dishonor to this soldier.
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