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PTSD More Likely in Vets with Combat Stress Reaction

Symptoms can be worse 20 years later than immediately after military service

THURSDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Combat veterans who experience stress reactions during their time in the military are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a report in the April issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. In addition, PTSD can reemerge as the veterans age and symptoms may develop at the 20-year mark, even in those without combat stress reaction, the authors found.

Zahava Solomon, Ph.D., and Mario Mikulincer, Ph.D., from Tel Aviv University in Israel, assessed the psychopathological effects of combat in 214 Lebanon War veterans, 131 of whom suffered combat stress reaction. The veterans were assessed at one, two, three and 20 years after the 1982 war.

Veterans who experienced combat stress reactions were 6.6 times more likely to have PTSD at all four measurements. In addition, their PTSD was more severe and was more likely to be exacerbated or reactivated. The investigators also found that while PTSD declined successively during the first three years, symptoms reemerged years later.

"The exacerbating effects of aging that reawake past traumatic wounds, as well as the implications of a stressful postwar environment such as the ongoing state of terror, raise the need to increase awareness with regard to war-induced PTSD," the authors conclude.

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