Military service is a unique experience. You exist in an environment of camaraderie, esprit-de-corps and the honor of serving a higher calling, but it’s not without hidden dangers. The separation from your family and loved ones and the trauma of war can also be the cause of great anxiety and mental stress. It’s common for servicemen and women to have feelings of fear, anger, sadness and worry after returning from a deployment. Adjusting can be difficult for everyone. Some of the more alarming statistics include:
- 327% increase in reported anxiety disorders among service between 2000 and 2012 (VA)
- 20% of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will experience acute anxiety, stress and/or depression (VA)
- The suicide rate among young (18-34) female U.S. military veterans is nearly three times higher than among civilian females (VA)
- Children of deployed veterans showed elevations in anxiety and depression tied to deployment length and the psychological stress of the parent at home (AAP)
- 1-in-5 military members who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or major depression (NAMI)
And then there is combat violence, sexual assaults, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and addiction, depression, romantic infidelity, discrimination of all types, and so many other conditions and influences that service members battle every day. Despite the Pentagon’s efforts to educate service members and their families, approximately one-half of military members and their spouses say they are only somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about the symptoms of mental health concerns.
Anxiety.org is greatly concerned with the mental health issues of our military. That is why we have worked closely with top university and institutional researchers and leading clinicians to curate helpful and educational resources specifically for our heroes: active duty, reserve and veterans.
Where To Get Help
Do you feel overwhelmed or get easily annoyed or agitated? Trouble sleeping? Thoughts of suicide? Worried about tests or missing home? These are just a very few of the symptoms or clues that you may have anxiety or a related mental health or mood disorder. There should be no stigma associated with your feeling; anxiety is the most common health issue for military members. Whether it’s in garrison or during deployment, get the help and support you need; go talk to someone.
Where to Find Help on Base or at the VA
- Most installations will have a non-medical counseling service like the Military and Family Life Counseling Program or a Work-Life Office that likely will also offer confidential counseling services. You can also find online help at www.militaryonesource.mil or at (800) 342-9647.
- Installation Chaplains offer spiritual guidance and are trained counselors. They offer confidential services and also referral services for various mental health concerns.
- Therapy and treatment may also be available through TRICARE or your nearest military treatment facility. Your primary care manager can refer you for treatment at a nearby clinic or network provider in your area. Be sure to ask about your coverage and co-pays for these options.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs provides counseling services to assess and treat mental health issues. Their veteran centers specialize in suicide prevention and offer free readjustment counseling to combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty.
- Talk to a friend, mentor or supervisor – and maybe they can accompany you to a visit with a professional therapist.
- If you choose to work with counselors and providers outside the military, make sure you understand the costs before you begin a treatment program. Also, as a service member, consider your responsibility to report counseling to your command.
- Be open and straightforward with your family so that they can offer support.
- Support groups can be very helpful – and you can probably find one hosted by a hospital, community center, counseling center, or religious group.
Anxiety disorders are at the top of the list of mental health challenges for service members. Many of the military family statistics are worrisome. Consider that:
- Nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition (JAMA Psychiatry)
- An average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day (VA) – that’s approximately 8,000 per year
- 30% of soldiers develop mental problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home. (NAMI)
- 55% of women and 38% of men report being victims of sexual harassment while serving in the military (DoD)
- An estimated 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans turn to heavy drinking or drugs once they return home (VA)
There may be a high level of co-morbidity with anxiety disorders. Learn more about the following disorders, which often affect military members and veterans, too:
Active Duty Military and Veteran Resources:
- PTSD: It’s Not Just About Combat Exposure
- Is PTSD taking over your relationship?
- Increased risk of PTSD in victims of rap
- PTSD Happens To Non-Veterans, Too
- How Trauma And Abuse Affects Chronic Pain
- Anxiety And Depression Can Ruin Your Sex Life
- Caregivers Of Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors
- Why Friends Keep Us Sane
- Why Does The LGBT Community Experience Such High Levels Of Anxiety?
- Unraveling The Stigma Of Mental Illnesses
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Tony Attwood, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist specializing in autism spectrum disorders since 1975. He's an adjunct professor at Griffith University, Queensland, and a senior consultant at Minds and Hearts clinic in Brisbane. His book, "Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals," sold over 350,000 copies and is translated into 25 languages. A prolific author, he speaks at international conferences, conducts workshops, and works with individuals of all ages with Asperger’s syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder.