Guilt is Major Factor in Veteran PTSD

06 Dec 2011

A new study finds that guilt is a major factor in the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans in combat.

The research involved more than 2,600 active-duty Marines, who were studied before and after their combat tours. The preliminary findings come from a study of 208 active-duty Marines in Afghanistan. The researchers found that 7% of these Marines were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder 3 months after they came home, and the condition was linked to internal conflict rather than the fear of being killed, or the sight of dead bodies.

The study plays with the idea of ‘moral injury’ as a cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the researchers, service members who lived through an attack which killed other service members, or witnessed an attack that results in the unintentional death of civilians, women or children may suffer from survivor's guilt. These feelings of guilt may ultimately manifest themselves as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association has been considering new criteria for the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the new criteria could possibly include guilt and shame. However, there has been limited research into the role of moral injury in the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. Typically, the American Psychiatric Association has linked Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to violence during combat, fear of being killed, and loss of friends in combat.

Psychological issues have become an epidemic among veterans, with approximately 50% of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with mental health issues. The most prominent among the mental health issues that California veterans benefits lawyers have found, is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which currently affects about 200,000 veterans. According to the researchers, post traumatic stress disorder which is linked to a moral injury, is typically more severe than PTSD that results from being part of a near-death experience. Persons who experience a moral injury may be more likely to commit suicide, or exhibit violent tendencies towards family members.