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March 4, 2013

What the Media Isn’t Reporting About PTSD in SOF Personnel

As a special operations soldier, I always held the belief that my fellow operators and I were relatively immune to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when compared with other soldiers. Of course, no one is really immune to such a disorder, but it was so rarely a problem with anyone I worked with, and we talked about it often. After a violent engagement or a traumatic event, we’d briefly discuss the events openly and critically and then move on.  We were sensitive to the dangers of mental and emotional problems associated with combat because we had had hours of classes and training on the subject, but it never became a major problem within our units.

Speaking from personal experience, when I was on my very first real combat operation, we became surrounded by enemy forces and took effective and sustained fire.  I distinctly remember having a discussion during the engagement with a fellow rookie about how calm we were.  I had always expected to have tunnel vision and be so amped that my decisions would be less than clear.  That was not at all the case.  I was calm and collected and after we returned to base I fell right asleep.


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The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Military Family Clinic/NYU Langone

To comment on this article please join/login. Here's a sample of the comments on this post.

  • SandraH

    Great article. Very informative.  I had not read about the study conducted by the US National Center for PTSD in 2003.  Also, the correlation between the VA backlog and the number of suicides is very disturbing.

  • I_AmT_Rex

    @ctlo I have had mild insomnia from the age of 14 or so(probably from concussions) and received several mild and severe concussions while in from bad air force drops on static line jumps, being blown up, and a few drunken nights at Scruffy Murphy's. When I got out I was used to being up at night, used to looking after issues at 3am, and used to getting 2hrs of sleep a night. A couple years before I got out, an Army psych I went and saw(forced to see hahaha) diagnosed me as a functioning insomniac. After leaving and seeking help from the VA because I hadn't slept in 2 weeks they automatically said PTSD, prescribed me on 3 different antidepressants(which I never got, because why), but never gave me any sleeping pills. The problem with the system, which you and everyone knows is true, is that the VA automatically gave a 50 percent rating for PTSD on disability for a certain amount of time, and may still do. You have regular clerk style personnel getting out saying they had pre PTSD. No bullshit. Pre PTSD; and they are taking advantage of a much needed system for those that actually need it. I want to blame the VA, but its not all their fault when asshats who never left Al Asad or Bagram are causing misdiagnosis. Just my rambling opinion haha

  • I_AmT_Rex

    @ctlo I have had mild insomnia from the age of 14 or so(probably from concussions) and received several mild and severe concussions while in from bad air force drops on static line jumps, being blown up, and a few drunken nights at Scruffy Murphy's. When I got out I was used to being up at night, used to looking after issues at 3am, and used to getting 2hrs of sleep a night. A couple years before I got out, an Army psych I went and saw(forced to see hahaha) diagnosed me as a functioning insomniac. After leaving and seeking help from the VA because I hadn't slept in 2 weeks they automatically said PTSD, prescribed me on 3 different antidepressants(which I never got, because why), but never gave me any sleeping pills. The problem with the system, which you and everyone knows is true, is that the VA automatically gave a 50 percent rating for PTSD on disability for a certain amount of time, and may still do. You have regular clerk style personnel getting out saying they had pre PTSD. No bullshit. Pre PTSD; and they are taking advantage of a much needed system for those that actually need it. I want to blame the VA, but its not all their fault when asshats who never left Al Asad or Bagram are causing misdiagnosis. Just my rambling opinion ha

  • Jud K

    ctlo No doubt these are real issues that deserve serious attention.  I too have friends from the SOF community who have suffered or are suffering from some sort of mental or emotional problem.  My praters are with your family and your son for his recovery. The message I am trying to get out to people is that not everyone out there has PTSD or related combat stresses.  It is frustrating when I speak with employers about hiring veterans and they dance around the reason for their hesitation, just to finally ask me the big question about PTSD.   In my opinion, the biggest problem we have is how the VA is diagnosing and treating vets right now.  The pills they prescribe do more harm than good, and many of their diagnoses are completely incorrect.  If only 12% od soliders see combat, how can 30% experience PTSD?  What trauma are they involved with?  I think there is a separation problem that has significant impact psychologically and emotionally on veterans, more so than combat trauma. Thank you for your post. God bless.

  • ctlo

    My son, now discharged over two years, has PTSD, TBI, and several other afflictions. Without labeling him too much, he went from all-state football player, to a Big Three service academy, and served in SOF in Afghanistan. Since discharge, he has been arrested twice, turned to hard drugs and alcohol, and looks most days like a man 15 years his senior. I too am a veteran, and like you, thought making the grade as an operator, would make him almost 'immune' from PTSD-type afflictions. Take my word for it: they are real. And my son is one of the bestt.