We all need to take the time to address our mental health, to check in on ourselves now and then, and to look for help when we might need it. Veterans are no different from anyone else in this regard but, due to the life they have led, they may be more prone to certain issues than most other people.

Whether you are a veteran yourself, and you have been experiencing symptoms of mental health issues that you want to get on top of, or your loved one is in the same position, being aware of the potential problems, and ways to address them can be vital. As such, here are some of the most common mental health challenges veterans have to face.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is much more common in veterans, who have a much higher likelihood of experiencing traumatic events on the battlefield. It’s a severe form of stress that can present as nightmares, flashbacks, mood swings, uncontrollable thoughts, and fixations on trauma, as well as finding yourself having much stronger emotional reactions to things, even if they’re relatively benign. Treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) have proven effective. Specialized PTSD programs, peer support groups, and mindfulness practices can also be beneficial.


While everyone can have a low mood now and then, depression is a much more persistent issue. While it can feel like a sort of consistent sadness, many people also experience it more accurately as a lack of joy or motivation. Even if you don’t necessarily feel “bad”, you might find it difficult to feel good, also. A combination of medication and psychotherapy, such as CBT, is often used to treat depression. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, engaging in meaningful activities, and support from loved ones and veteran groups can also help manage symptoms. Some people are prone to depression over the long term, so taking on healthy life-long habits can help greatly.

Anxiety disorders

Aside from post-traumatic stress disorder, a lot of veterans can also experience more generalized anxiety disorders. This can include feelings of social anxiety, fearfulness of rejection or other kinds of negative treatment, and even panic attacks, which is when your fight or flight reaction kicks in even when you’re in a safe situation. CBT is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also be prescribed. Mindfulness, meditation, relaxation exercises, and gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations can help veterans cope.

Substance abuse

There are many different paths to a life of substance abuse. Some can use drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication for untreated mental health issues. Others can find themselves becoming addicted as a result of recreational use. You can even develop an addiction to medication you have been prescribed. There are many different ways to treat substance abuse, but services like a VA inpatient rehab can address the mental and social problems that are common to veterans, and so often at the root of such a condition in the first place. It’s important to treat the issues underlying the substance abuse and not just the abuse itself.

Traumatic brain injury

If a person has been injured in the head at any point, then they may have a traumatic brain injury, which can have long-term effects on their well-being and behavior even if they’re not aware of them. Symptoms like headaches, confusion, and memory problems could be a sign that you need help, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, along with cognitive rehabilitation. Medications may help manage symptoms. Ongoing care from specialists experienced in TBI is crucial for recovery and managing long-term effects.

Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders, including insomnia, are common among veterans. Poor sleep can exacerbate other mental health issues and reduce overall well-being. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is effective in treating sleep disorders. Improving sleep hygiene, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and creating a restful sleep environment are important. In some cases, medications may be needed. Addressing underlying conditions like PTSD or anxiety can also improve sleep quality. Sleep and your mental health have a cyclical relationship, so treating both of them at the same time is often vital if you want the best chances of total recovery.

The journey towards better mental health is not always easy or straightforward, but it is important to be aware of the fact that there are solutions. The tips above can point you in the direction of some of them.

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