Myth: All Veterans Have PTSD


For more information about PTSD related to screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, refer to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder website.

Not All Veterans Have PTSD

Fact: Approximately 30% of Vietnam War Veterans experience PTSD over the course of their lifetimes, and approximately one in five Service Members who return from deployment operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have symptoms of PTSD.

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When Does PTSD Occur?

Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after exposure to a traumatic event. Traumatic events happen in the civilian world and in war zones, when an individual is exposed to actual or threatened death, injury, or sexual violence. Not everyone who witnesses or experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. For complete PTSD criteria see the National Center for PTSD website as noted.

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Does Every Trauma Cause PTSD?

Experiencing a trauma does not mean you will develop PTSD. Most people recover fully after experiencing these kinds of events. Only small percentages are diagnosed with PTSD.

While the percentages are higher for Veterans, it is important to remember that trauma can be cumulative. For example, some may have had trauma before they joined the service and others manage well even with symptoms of PTSD.

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Who Experiences PTSD?

Anyone can develop PTSD. It may seem that Veterans experience more traumas; however, over half of the general population goes through a trauma, and a much smaller percentage develops PTSD.

For example, 7–8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives and about 5.2 million adults have PTSD in a given year (this is only a small portion of those who have experienced a trauma). In the United States, motor vehicle accidents are actually one of the leading causes of PTSD. In other words, you do not need to be in a war zone or in combat to be vulnerable to developing PTSD.

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Educate Others About PTSD

Remember: As an EAP provider, you can provide education about PTSD to help dispel these misconceptions. This can be especially important if you suspect that an employer’s biases may be impacting how he or she perceives the behaviors of a Veteran employee.

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Did you know?

Among Veterans, experts think that PTSD occurs:

  • in about 11–20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in 11–20 Veterans out of 100;
  • in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Veterans out of 100; and
  • in about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 Veterans out of 100.
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