Military personnel are routinely exposed to physical and psychological challenges. Long walks with heavy equipment without sufficient sleep and nutrition are examples of physical challenges. Personnel may also be exposed to violent situations and traumatic scenes.
Stress develops through the interplay of biologic, psychological, social and environmental factors. This means that the level of operative stress is varying. Operations in Afghanistan have for example been characterised by frequent combats with high intensity and danger. Studies have shown a correlation between high levels of pressure during operations and stress reactions afterwards.
Increased bodily tension and hyper-vigilance are some of the most common reactions experienced by veterans during the first 3-6 months after returning home.
Other reactions are:
- Increased sensitivity to sounds and sudden movements
- Sleep disturbances
- Irritability and anger
- Relationship problems
- Anxiety and distress
- Avoidance of places and situations
Veterans may react to things at home that they perceive as trivialities, because the contrast to the pain and suffering “out there” is so great. Many feel poorly understood and are left with a feeling that people lack interest in what they have been through.