Post Traumatic Stress-- The Hidden Cost of War

Post Traumatic Stress-- The Hidden Cost of War

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Jed Boal reporting One of the hidden costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking a toll on American troops.

The trauma of war leaves scars. And not all returning troops seek the help they might need. It's a battle against an unknown enemy.

Many stresses of war are obvious. Ducking gunfire and missiles and shooting at others is certainly traumatic. Few soldiers can endure the emotional rigors of battle without feeling the effects.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "War will leave a scar on your mind."

War always afflicts some Marines and soldiers with serious psychological problems.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "We figured it was just part of the job."

Two years into the Iraq War, more than 15-hundred U.S. service men and women have been killed and more than 10-thousand wounded. Those with no physical wounds often come home with other scars of war.

Steve Allen, Phd./P.T.S.D. Clinical Team Coordinator: "That's been the history of war. People tend to forget the psychological consequences that are lasting and lingering."

In the Civil War it was first described and called "Irritable Heart Symdrome". In World War II: shell shock. After the traumas of the Vietnam War it became know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Dr. Steve Allen is the PTSD Clinical Team Coordinator at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salt Lake City. He's seeing more Utahns with PTSD as the war continues.

Troops can and do adapt to the stress of combat, but...

Steve Allen, Phd./P.T.S.D. Clinical Team Coordinator: "Those adaptations that are helpful in combat are not so helpful in civilian life."

For most troops, psychological symptoms disappear. For a minority, they will never go away.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jose Diaz was a communications specialist in the first Gulf War. Two months after that war, his roommate told him he was screaming in his sleep.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "We figured all of this was just stuff that you dreamed of. It just popped up in a dream."

He slept, but never felt rested, and he tried to get used to it. Diaz did not get help for years, until his wife told him he was screaming in his sleep.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "This is when I thought I had a problem. I had gone through two divorces already."

He isolated himself and thought about the death and destruction he had witnessed.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "These guys are seeing flesh, they're pointing their weapons at human beings, actually pulling the trigger. These guys are 19, 20 years old."

In the first-ever wartime study of the mental health of combat troops, the Army is discovering the scope of the trauma.

One in six soldiers and Marines from the Iraq War report a mental health problem, but fewer than 40-percent of those afflicted by PTSD sought any help.

Jose Diaz got help long after he left the battlefield. He hopes Iraq War veterans do not make the same mistake.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "It will never go away. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will never go away."

Diaz says soldiers are afraid to talk about it, especially those who still want to serve. Pride also keeps a lot of PTSD sufferers from seeking help.

Jose Diaz/Gulf War Veteran: "We were soldiers and we don't want to show a sign of weakness. That's why it doesn't surprise me a bit."

But troops can get help if they need it when they come home.

Tuesday we'll talk with a recently returned veteran with PTSD and talk about symptoms and treatment.

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