Effects of War on Soldiers Research Proposal

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Comparative Study of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder between military and private contractors stationed in Iraq

Americans at War

Conflict is a part of the human condition. Although most would prefer peace, sometimes war represents an inevitable reality. Since the founding of our nations, Americans have been called to serve our nation in the armed forces numerous times. The latest conflict is only one event in a long chain of wars dotting American history. Every time there is a conflict, three things are inevitable: casualties, fatalities, and survivors.

Fatalities are a part of life in the war zone. It is a reality that every military person faces every day. For those that become casualties, they are often left with permanent reminders of their life in the war zone. However, not all casualties are physical. Life in the war zone leaves lasting emotional scars on everyone who survives, whether they were injured or not. Often these emotional scars go unrecognized, or have no apparent affect on daily life, but for some, they can affect their life to a degree that makes it difficult to cope. These emotional effects will be the topic of this research.

The Effects of Life in a War Zone

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The war zone is one of the most stressful places on the face of the earth. Personnel and civilians face a constant physical threat. Long-term stress associated with the war zone leave lasting emotional scars on everyone, not only military personnel. Life in the war zone is an ongoing exercise in coping with grief and loss. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs as a result of exposure to a traumatic event or ordeal (NIMH, 2008). Many people are familiar with PTSD as it relates to combat veterans. However, PTSD is not limited to combat veterans, it can occur to anyone as a result of exposure to any traumatic event (NIMH, 2008).

Research Proposal on Effects of War on Soldiers Assignment

PTSD can be brief and mild, or it can be devastating and last a lifetime. Much of a person's reaction depends on personality traits and their coping skills. A person does not have to be directly affected by the event to develop PTSD. Casual observers and those witnessing the event can be affected as easily as those directly in harms path (NIMH, 2008). This was seen by many who witnessed the bombing of the World Trade Tower on television. People across the country developed PTSD simply by watching the events unfold. Almost of all adults in a nationwide survey reported at least one symptom of PTSD after watching the events of 9-11-2002 on television (Schuster, Bradley, & Jaycox, 2001). For a few hours, the nation was in a war zone, if only on the television screen.

Although, PTSD can affect anyone who witnesses the event, those that are geographically close or that are directly involved in the conflict are at the greatest risk for developing severe PTSD. Therefore, this research will focus on the impact of PTSD on U.S. military personnel currently serving in a war zone. The purpose of this study is to examine current literature on PTSD, current theories and treatments and the ability to adapt to society after they return to life in a conflict-free zone. This research will use a survey to examine the effectiveness of current treatments for PTSD among a population of military personnel and private contractors stationed in the war zone. This study will play an important role in the further development of techniques to help those who spend time in a war zone void PTSD and to allow them to return to a state of normalcy as quickly as possible.

Literature Review

Military Statistics

According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 142,000 active duty U.S. Troops in Iraq. In addition, there are approximately 8,000 Reserve units, including the National Guard. This makes a total of approximately 150,000 troops stationed in Iraq (O'Hanlon & Campbell, 2008). There are approximately 23,000 non-U.S. Coalition troops in Iraq as well (O'Hanlon & Campbell, 2008). Of these troops, it is not known how many are on the front lines and how many are serving in support positions. These numbers change daily and are not made available to the general public for national security reasons.

Of these troops stationed in Iraq, approximately 30,000 have suffered serious brain and spinal injuries, excluding psychological injuries (White, 2008). Approximately 30% of all U.S. troops develop serious mental health problems within 3-4 months after returning home (White, 2008). U.S. military troops are not the only ones stationed in Iraq and in danger of suffering from serious emotional trauma. There are approximately 180,00 private contractors in Iraq working in support of U.S. military troops (White, 2008).This means that there are more private contractors than actual military personnel.

These persons are also at risk for the development of mental health disorders, but there are no statistics available on health risks to private contractors. This is an important group for consideration, as they do not receive assistance from the military for PTSD and related problems. It is up to their companies and private insurance to provide treatment for these personnel. It is not known if these persons are receiving the care that they need, or if they are slipping through the cracks of the system.

The Affects of War on an Individual

War can have many different affects on individuals. PTSD manifests in a number of different ways. In combat soldiers that responded to a survey after deployment, there was a strong correlation between combat experiences such as being shot at, handling or viewing dead bodies, knowing someone who was killed, or killing enemy combatants and the development of PTSD (Hoge, Castro, & Messer et al., 2004). However, like most studies, only military personnel were considered. Private contractors can still be exposed to these experiences during their deployment to Iraq.

There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with PTSD, including both physical and mental symptoms. PTSD affects every individual differently, but there are some common characteristics that indicate a person is suffering from PTSD. These include chronic fatigue syndrome (Kang et al., 2003), depression (Henkel, et al., 2003), and all associated symptoms of these disorders. (Smith, Ryan, Wingard, et al., 2008). Symptoms can include intense memories of the event, nightmares, feelings of anxiety associated with the event, and physiological distress symptoms associated with "triggers" associated with the event (Smith, Ryan, Wingard, et al., 2008).

One of the most disturbing factors in the treatment of PTSD among combat veterans is that it has a stigma attached to it that prevents many veterans from seeking the help that they need (Seal, Bertenthal, & Maguen et al., 2008). Most treatment for PTSD comes from Veteran's Administration (VA) clinics. No statistics are available for those treated with private insurance. Although any mental health professional can offer treatment for PTSD, because the most well-known cases are associated with military personnel, most statistics and information regarding PTSD stems from VA health clinics. There are few statistics available for non-military populations.

Current Treatment Options for PTSD

Treatments offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stand as the standard for PTSD treatment. They are considered the authority in terms of affective treatment methods. According to VA, there are a number of treatment options available for those suffering from PTSD. The most common therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, eye movement desensitization, and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy (National Center for PTSD, 2007a). A number of medications are also used to enhance other therapy methods including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other medications typically used to treat depression (National Center for PTSD, 2007a). According to VA, seldom are drug therapies used alone to treat PTSD. Some form of counseling is usually used, with or without drug therapies (National Center for PTSD, 2007a).

Individual treatments are not the only option available. Group therapy and family therapies are also used to help the sufferer and those around them. Treatment lasts on average from 3-6 months, but can last as long as two years (National Center for PTSD, 2009a). In cases where comorbidity is present therapy and treatment can be complicated and can last for a longer duration (National Center for PTSD, 2007a). The treatment and duration of the treatment are individualized and reflect the complexity and coping skills of the individual.

Veterans of Previous Wars

Knowledge regarding PTSD and its affects on veterans is relatively new. It was first diagnosed among Vietnam veterans. However, that does not mean that it did not exist for veterans of previous wars. It was not defined as a condition until much later. Therefore, veterans of previous wars represent a different population from those currently serving in combat positions. Veterans of previous wars offer the opportunity to examine the long-term affects of PTSD. However, because the disease was not recognized soon after the conflict, there are too many variables to draw conclusions about current veterans suffering from the condition. For instance, it is not known if treatment would have helped to alleviate or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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