WHY SOME SOLDIERS DEVELOP POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) WHILE OTHERS DON’T

While severity of combat exposure was the strongest predictor of whether the soldiers developed the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pre conflict vulnerability is just as important in predicting the persistence of the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the long run.

Pre conflict vulnerability is just as important as combat-related trauma in predicting whether veterans’ symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be long-lasting, according to new research.

It was established that traumatic experiences during combat predicted the onset of the full complement of symptoms, known as the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans. But other factors — such as pre-conflict psychological vulnerabilities was established to be as important for predicting whether the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) persisted.

Three primary factors were considered: 

Severity of combat exposure (e.g., life-threatening experiences or traumatic events during combat),

Pre-conflict vulnerabilities (e.g., childhood physical abuse, family history of substance abuse) and,

The involvement in harming civilians or prisoners. 

The data indicated that stressful combat exposure was necessary for the onset of the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as 98% of the veterans who developed the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had experienced one or more traumatic events. 

But combat exposure alone was not sufficient to cause the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Of the soldiers who experienced any potentially traumatic combat exposures, only 31.6% developed the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When the researchers limited their analysis to the soldiers who experienced the most severe traumatic exposures, there was still a substantial proportion — about 30% — that did not develop the disorder..

This suggests that there were other factors and vulnerabilities involved for the minority of exposed who did end up developing the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Among these factors, childhood experiences of physical abuse were strong contributors to PTSD onset. 

Age also seemed to play an important role: Men who were younger than 25 when they entered the conflict were seven times more likely to develop Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to older men. The researchers also found that soldiers who inflicted harm on civilians or prisoners of war were much more likely to develop Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The combined data from all three primary factors — combat exposure, pre-conflict vulnerability, and involvement in harming civilians or prisoners — revealed that Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) onset reached an estimated 97% for veterans high on all three.

While severity of combat exposure was the strongest predictor of whether the soldiers developed the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pre conflict vulnerability was just as important in predicting the persistence of the syndrome over the long run.

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