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Kayla Bossart
DAlessio
UWRT 1102-008
6 April 2016
What Happens on the Battlefield, Doesnt Stay on the Battlefield
Soldiers go through months of physical training, laboring their bodies to get ready to
deploy for war. They endure all of the pain that accompanies the preparation of earning the title
of a soldier. When deployed, they fight their hardest in the most dangerous terrains, having to go
through stressful situations no one would ever dream of. They see things they wish they could
un-see, and do things that go beyond their own ethical standards. They fight for each other, they
fight for their country, and they fight for our freedom. They push the human standards and
experience multiple stressors that increase their risk of developing PTSD later on down the road.
The most common day during combat can have an effect so great on ones mind sending it into
stress overload. During the span of a day a troop of soldiers can be under attack, while in the
process some of their men die in combat. Soldiers are shot at and some are even hit in the
crossfires of their enemies. Seeing and experiencing all of these things are some of the top
stressors while participating out in the battlefield. I cannot imagine what these brave souls go
through, this job would be hard on anyone.
When first thinking about a soldier at war, most, myself included, jump to the physical
hardships their bodies go through, but that is not the only part of the body affected by this grand
deed. Their mind is put through the ringer throughout their time at war, from having to execute a
an enemy, to seeing one of their best comrades die from a fatal shot, or something else that is just

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as traumatizing. Witnessing something as catastrophic as this takes a toll on ones mind. When
they come home from war, they are not the same person; their family notices that something is
different about their loved-one. They experience symptoms of this disorder that doctors do not
know all of the facts to, an ambiguous disorder commonly known as Post-traumatic Stress
Disorder or PTSD. Whether they go to the doctor to figure out what is happening to them or not,
PTSD affects about thirty-nine percent of all soldiers put through combat; half of the male
soldiers from the Vietnam War were to have said to have experienced symptoms related to PTSD
(Garthwaite). Factors that contribute to a substantial increase in the risk of developing this
disorder include longer deployment time, the closer you are stationed to enemy lines, lower
ranks, familial problems, a member of the National Guard or Reserves, and many others (PTSD:
National Center for PTSD). This disorder has attracted more attention as the years have gone by,
causing more doctors to dive deep in the research of this obscure disorder.
When these stressors become too much for a veteran to handle, PTSD creeps in and the
symptoms start to show. Since PTSD is a mental disorder, most symptoms are different from
person to person for how they perceive them. If a veteran starts to experience any of the
following symptoms they should seek medical attention: persistent reminders of the traumatic
event, extreme avoidance of said event, intense negative mood changes, constantly being
emotionally reactive and unstable, and dissociative symptoms (Smith). Everyone reacts to this
disorder in a variety of ways, and since PTSD does not have concrete findings, veterans need to
be aware of these symptoms so they can get the help they need. However, most cases go
undiagnosed which is why the military is advocating the education and treatment of this disorder.

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PTSD is something to not be taken lightly, if it goes untreated it can have extreme effects
on the physical and mental aspect of ones body. Many cases go unrecognized due to the several
obstacles of detecting whether one has PTSD or not. From the lack of awareness, time, and
tools, to doctors feeling uncomfortable due to the little experience, to the patient being against
seeking medical attention, are all problems that arise when trying to diagnose a patient
(Garthwaite). There are screenings available to help detect if a veteran has PTSD such as the
Beck Anxiety Inventory, and other questionnaires. Nonetheless, these are not always accurate,
they are subjective, testing to get a gist of the patients mental status (PTSD: National Center for
PTSD). However, these are not always reliable, soldiers can easily lie to frame their answers to
make them resume the strong macho identity they want others to see. Even though there are
screenings, they are not black and white determining whether one has this disorder, they fall in
the grey area, the realm of uncertainty.
Even though it is proven that screenings lead to increased detection, it is not concrete like
a test for strep throat. Patients have to go under further investigation if they truly want to
determine if they are suffering from this disorder. Instead of the testing being so definite, there
are criteria along with the screenings to help figure out what is going on in the veterans mind. If
they are said to fall in the criteria, is when one gets diagnosed with PTSD. The criteria include:
exposure to a traumatic stressor, re-experiencing symptoms, symptoms lasting more than a
month, impairment of the functioning of ones body, and more (Garthwaite). PTSD might not
have an exact test in determining if one has this disorder, however there are certain tell tales that
point to a positive diagnosis. Veterans fight hard for their country and go through what most
people would cringe just thinking about. When the soldiers come home, they are still burdened
by the effects of war, most not even considering going to the doctor due to the stigma behind

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mental disorders. I believe this is the prime reason veterans and others fail to get diagnosed,
which will eventually lead to other complications down the road.
Veterans do not realize how surreal what they experienced out at war was until their life
or anothers is put at risk when reality hits. Treatment is crucial to get ones life back on track.
However, the only way for treatment plans to work like they are supposed to, is if the patient is
willing to put forth the effort to make it work. PTSDs main treatment that is most effective is a
combination of prescription medication and psychotherapy (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
2016). But, everyone is different and you need to find the right treatment for you. Prescription
medications are commonly used to treat and manage the symptoms of PTSD. According to the
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitor, which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD (n.d.). However, medications
can only go so far which is why therapy is frequently paired with medicines. Talking with
someone about what has happened is shown to help you understand and alter the way you think
of the traumatic event that occurred. Both treatments are effective, especially when they are
coupled with each other (PTSD: National Center for PTSD).
However, one of the problems that arises with doctors is the unknown and the little
experience they have regarding PTSD (Garthwaite). They feel uncomfortable when a patient
comes in regarding this disorder due to the little experience. A wall comes in between the doctor
and the patient because they are both uneasy about treating and discussing this disorder that is
being taken more seriously in the medical community. Due to the situation being so awkward,
doctors tend to hand out prescriptions like candy. They fail to use their best judgment in regards
to treating the patient and figuring out what plan is right for them. Each case is different, so each
patient should be treated differently in order to receive the most optimal care they deserve. The

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different types of prescriptions used to ease symptoms include antidepressants, anti-anxiety
medications, and prazosin (Mayo Clinic Staff). In my opinion, medications are limited and are
mainly aimed to ease the symptoms that coexist with PTSD. So more extensive treatment, such
as various types of therapy, is encouraged if the patient is open to such ways to get a better end
result.
On September 16, 2013, a tragic event happened that was a realization to the mental
health community. Aaron Alexis, a military veteran, killed twelve people in a shooting rampage
at the Washington Navy Yard. The news source, CNN, reported that Alexis was suspected to
have suffered from PTSD that had gone untreated which led to a tragic ending for many. CNN
discussed the stigma related to mental illnesses and how they are commonly associated with acts
of violence. News sources are powerful and biased influences that easily persuade communitys
opinions on events such as this. A persons first thoughts of mental illness is usually negative
due to the harsh stigma surrounding it (Fitzpatrick). This is why CNN further expressed the
Surgeon General has come out to say that, the likelihood of violence with mental illness is
exceptionally small (2013). Hopefully people can take what the Surgeon General said and
apply it to their opinions on the matter.
This stigma related to mental illnesses causes many to refrain from seeking help leading
to many cases going untreated, just like Aaron Alexis.

This results in more danger in

communities due to people not receiving the help and treatment they need. In my opinion, if the
mental health stigma was not so strong, Alexis may have received the medical attention he
needed and this day may have had a different ending. People, including veterans, are stuck on
what others think that they refuse to go to a doctor in fear that they will be diagnosed with a
mental illness. Society makes it seem that mental disorders, including PTSD, are all in ones

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head and that they should just get over it. When this mentality is all you see and hear, who
would want to go to the doctor because they think they might be experiencing symptoms of a
mental illness, like PTSD? People should be more accepting and understanding, and realize that
PTSD is not something one simply makes up. Stigmas are a real problem in our society, making
veterans feel inferior to others, overall resulting in making situations worse than they could be.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
is another real world example of a soldier who experienced war and the ultimate stressors that
led him to develop PTSD. Chris Kyle, the rhetor, was one of the top snipers in history, with 160
confirmed kills.

After the amount of tours he participated in and the experiences on the

battlefield he went through, it all eventually caught up to Kyle, taking a toll on his mind. He
resorted to alcohol before coming to the realization that he needed real help. Wanting to return to
his safe place out at war, his wife gave him an ultimatum of her and their kids or the battlefield,
and he chose family. Once he was home for good, he made let his friends and family know that
he was suffering from PTSD. From there on out, he sought out means to cope in healthy ways
by participating in various veteran activities. He frequently went on hunting trips, helped
provide security for one of the Olympic Games, and was a bodyguard for Sarah Palin. He took
what he knew and loved and used it as a way of coping. Everyone handles PTSD differently and
this was how Chris Kyle did (Kyle).
However, Kyle was determined to help others with PTSD, just like himself. One day a
young Iraq War veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, who was also suffering like Kyle, contacted him
seeking help. He had been struggling and was taking eight different prescription medication to
mask his symptoms. Kyle and one of his friends agreed to help; they planned to take Routh to a
shooting range. There, Routh had an episode and shot and killed both Kyle and his friend. This

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was a very tragic ending for Kyle after everything he went through (Bateson). Even though
Routh was taking medicine, eight different medications is entirely way too much for ones body
to handle. Taking various medications tends to cancel out each other out and have adverse side
effects. It makes you think of how uncomfortable and inexperienced doctors are in treating
PTSD because of their lack of awareness with this disorder. If a physician or physicians would
have taken the time and effort to figure out what worked for Routh instead of handing
prescriptions out left and right, Routh could have been more mentally stable and that day could
also have ended differently. It is sad to think that the doctors failed Routh, but they should have
been more focused on helping him recover and not masking what was truly going on.
Soldiers are put on pedestals because of how highly they are thought of in our country;
they are who we thank for our freedom and who little kids look up to when they walk in the
parade. However, how do the soldiers and veterans feel with this much responsibility? They are
taught to walk a certain way, make their beds with mitered corners, dress with perfection, but not
how to deal with the mental stress that goes on while out on the battlefield. They are supposed to
be the big macho men that never get hurt, especially not from something that is just in their
heads. Societys mentality is that veterans should just get over it and they should feel lucky
because at least they survived. Who would want to go to a doctor knowing that you are looked
down upon due to the harsh mental health stigma in this country? Admitting they have a
weakness would be one of their hardest feats, let alone if it was related to a mental illness. The
stigma makes it so that no one wants to seek treatment or else they will be the weird one with
something wrong with their brain. Societys perspective is getting in the way of letting veterans
live normal lives after they are able to healthily cope with PTSD.

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PTSD is not something that should be taken lightly. We might not know all of the facts
that go along with this disorder, but we have enough research to know the basics. PTSD is not
black and white, there are ambiguities, it falls under the grey scale. There is not even a definite
way to diagnose a patient, like there is for cancer. There are questionnaires in order to determine
if one has this disorder, but these are not lie-proof, a veteran could easily frame their answers to
make it seem like nothing is wrong. That begs the question, will there ever be a way to diagnose
a patient with PTSD cut and dry? Everyone is different, every veteran is different. And this
makes me wonder how it is different when civilians get PTSD rather than veterans? One veteran
may show symptoms of depression that makes him go the bar every night, while another may
wake up screaming because of the nightmares that play on rewind when he goes to sleep. It is
important for people that experience symptoms related to PTSD, and who have experienced a
traumatic event to see a doctor, because ultimately that is the only way one can be diagnosed.
With this, how many cases go untreated? And how many cases are effectively treated?
Another problem that arises with treating PTSD is the mental stigma surrounding it.
Without this stigma, would more people, including veterans, seek the treatment they need? Who
enforces this harsh stigma? The media, friends, family? Victims of mental illness are labeled as
crazy and that the disease is underrated. However, I think veterans are diagnosed with PTSD
consistently, with the amount of cases skyrocketing due to the more advanced research; I believe
this is especially evident given my two genres. In American Sniper: The Autobiography of the
Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, Eddie Ray Routh was taking eight prescription
medications. When is enough, enough, in terms of medicine? PTSD is becoming more well
researched as the years have gone by, but yet there is still so much that we do not know. Finally,
is there a cure for PTSD or are the victims simply in a recovery period?

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Works Cited
Bateson, John. "Chris Kyles PTSD: The Untold, Real-life American Sniper Story." Saloncom
RSS. Salon, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Fitzpatrick, Michael J. "How Shootings Stigmatize People Living with Mental Illness." CNN.
Cable News Network, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Garthwaite, Thomas L., MD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Implications for Primary Care:
Independent Study Course. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 2002. Mar.
2002. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
Kyle, Chris, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most
Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. New York: W. Morrow, 2012. Print.
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder." Treatments and Drugs. Mayo Clinic, n.d.
Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nebraska Department of
Veterans' Affairs, 2007. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." NIMH RSS. N.p., Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 05
Apr. 2016.
Smith, Melinda, Lawerence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal. "PTSD in Military Veterans." PTSD in
Military Veterans: Symptoms, Treatment, and the Road to Recovery for Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder. HelpGuide.org, Mar. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.