PTSD Symptoms May be Delayed for Years
September 05, 2007
DENVER - Veterans groups say a study published in the American Journal
of Psychiatry shows that the U.S. military is underestimating the extent
of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder problem for soldiers returning
from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The comprehensive review of studies of PTSD, published this week, found
that in many cases combat veterans did not manifest the symptoms for
"The military studies consistently showed high rates of delayed-onset
PTSD," the report said.
"It's pretty common knowledge that its effects often do not appear for
months or longer. But this is groundbreaking for Vietnam veterans and it
means we should do something for newer veterans and not just let it lay
there," said Steve Robinson, a Gulf War veteran and director of veterans
affairs for Veterans for America.
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said the
Department of Veterans Affairs needs more doctors as well as more
workers to process claims more quickly.
"Because of the surge of Iraq and Vietnam veterans now overwhelming the
VA, if the rules aren't changed more veterans will suffer broken homes,
lost jobs, substance and alcohol abuse and even homelessness," Sullivan
These groups and some members of Congress had been critical of the Army
for misdiagnosing cases of PTSD, but this year the military stepped up
efforts to recognize both PTSD and mild brain damage resulting from
improved explosive devices, the signature wound of the Iraq war.
"It is well-documented that for some people PTSD doesn't emerge for many
years. For some it comes and goes over many years," said Dr. Laurie
Leitch, a psychotherapist and research psychologist who has studied the
"From our experience in just the four and a half years of combat in Iraq
we have seen psychiatric injury manifest itself months and sometimes
years after a first deployment and some of that is compounded with
second, third and sometimes fourth deployments. We have no assurance
that any of our loved ones are safe or sound. They will be at risk for
decades to come," said Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families
"They wave their flag when you attack, when you come back they turn
their back," Lessin said, quoting a cadence the group's members chant
when they march in protest.
Army doctors recognize that PTSD may only appear months after veterans
return, but delays for years would be beyond the capability of the
military's medical system or Veterans Affairs hospitals, said Lessin.
The Centers for Disease Control says identifying PTSD can be very
Col. Kelly Wolgast, director of Fort Carson's Evans Army Community
Hospital, recently said that in addition to being examined immediately
after their return from Iraq, soldiers would be re-examined in six to
The report this week said in some cases World War II and Korean War
veterans did not show the symptoms of PTSD for 30 years, though it could
not be ruled out that they had experienced some that had not been
noticed or diagnosed.
The authors looked at 74 studies, narrowing them down based on the
reliability of their definitions of PTSD to 10 case studies and 19 group
studies. Some car accident victims also did not experience PTSD's
effects for months or years.
The authors were Bernice Andrews, professor of psychology at Royal
Holloway University of London, Chris Brewin, professor of psychology at
University College London, Rosanna Philpott of Royal Holloway University
of London, and Lorna Stewart, a research psychologist. Their work was
done under contract with the British Ministry of Defense.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press.