More than one million American men and women are veterans of the War on Terror—that is, veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces after September 2001. Contrary to popular belief, most veterans who return home do not experience PTSD or similar conditions.
“We tend to have this view and perception that anyone who serves in combat is irreparably damaged and in a way we kind of stigmatize those who served,” said BYU social work professor David Wood. “All service members who serve in combat experience stress. But the veterans who served in the latest wars are, as a whole, quite resilient and do quite well.”
Roughly 15 to 25 percent of veterans who return from deployment or combat experience PTSD.
“That is a huge number compared to the general population, which is closer to five to eight percent, so we tend to think all veterans experience those symptoms. But in reality, combat deployment does not always cause PTSD and PTSD is very treatable,” Wood said.
In addition to holding a doctorate in counseling psychology and a master’s in social work and working as a professor at BYU, Wood also serves as a behavioral health officer in the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in the Utah Army National Guard. There he helps soldiers get treatment if they have depression, PTSD, family problems or traumatic brain injuries.
The statement of how well veterans fare upon returning home is accentuated by a new study from Wood and two military colleagues that looked at how military veterans who experience combat-related amputations adjust successfully in the face that formidable adversity.
“For the study, we made ratings of their resiliency outcome, meaning that we understand they went through a very traumatic and difficult experience.”
The group hypothesized that some of the subjects would be worse off in terms of their overall view on life and their motivation to move forward. However, they found most returned to their original baseline or improved their position.
“It suggests these individuals really accepted and embraced the fact that they lost a limb,” Wood said.
The results of this study suggest that professionals and their clients can be optimistic about the potential for recovery, reintegration and resilience in response to the potentially traumatic and life-changing event of combat-related limb amputation.
The other two authors include Juliann Jeppsen, a behavioral health officer for the Utah Army National Guard, and Kalin Holyoak, a research assistant and officer in the United States Army.