The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

However, does age play a role in the development of PTSD? That is, are younger soldiers more susceptible to developing the disorder than older soldiers?

Logically speaking, younger soldiers (predominantly those in their early twenties) should be more prone to developing PTSD due to the more impressionable nature of their brains. Since the brain is always growing and learning, especially during the younger stages of life, it would be safe to assume that younger soldiers would be more likely to have negative reactions to the events of war. Although no one is actually prepared for the violent and deadly events of war, younger soldiers have less life experience and more innocence, which likely makes their time at war their first major traumatic experience. For this reason, younger soldiers should hold onto their memories, both elating and devastating, a bit better than older adults. But does this assumption actually hold true?

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs actually attributes a young person’s ability to handle trauma by their personal history of trauma. Those younger individuals who have already endured massive amounts of trauma in their short lifetime are more prone to developing PTSD, and this should then especially hold true if these types of individuals enlist in the military.

Additionally, the USDVA also finds that a young adult handles trauma the same way that his or her parents did. So if a young soldier had steadfast parents growing up, these individuals would be less likely to develop PTSD.

Of course, there are always exceptions, especially when it comes to war. For younger individuals who have been affected by PTSD during combat, the USDVA encourages that these soldiers seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even soldiers as young as eighteen years of age should seek the same treatment as adult veterans, which includes treatment methods such as talk therapy and psychiatric medication.

However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.