According to an Aug. 17 press release by the American Psychological Association (APA), depression may be an unrecognized readjustment problem for returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The findings of a recent study were reported on Friday during the 115th Annual APA Convention being held in San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 17 – Aug. 20, 2007.
The results came from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Mental Illness, Research Education, and Clinical Center at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. The researchers worked with veterans who’d been referred for psychiatric evaluation from a primary care service. In their study, they found clear evidence that both major and minor depression were associated with domestic abuse and other family problems.
Dr. Steven L. Sayers of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center lead the researchers. He noted that although there has been very little empirical research focused on the family problems of veterans in the first year or two following their return from a major military conflict, family problems among those with partners are common. In fact, noted Dr. Sayers, the rates of problems found in this study were similar to those in longer-term studies of Vietnam veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
The study considered the family problems of 168 veterans who were referred for behavioral health evaluation and who had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. Of those veterans, more than 40 percent were currently married or cohabiting, 21 percent were recently separated or divorced, and nearly 55 percent had at least one child.
About 66 percent of the married or cohabiting vets reported some type of family readjustment problem or conflict occurring several times a week. Specifically, some 42 percent said they felt like a guest in their home; nearly 22 percent said their children were not acting warmly or were afraid of them; 36 percent said they were unsure about their role in regular household responsibilities. Also, about 56 percent of the vets with current or recently separated partners reported severe family conflicts involving “shouting, pushing or shoving,” and 35 percent of these vets reported that their partner was afraid of them.
The study found that vets with depression or PTSD were more likely to experience these readjustment problems. Further, family problems may limit the effectiveness of depression or PTSD treatment because positive family relationships are extremely important to a vet’s recovery.
The researchers found that specific role-related readjustment problems were related both to depression and PTSD. For example, whereas about 20 percent of the veterans reported that their children were afraid of them or did not act warmly, 36 percent of those with PTSD had this experience.
There was a difference noted between veterans diagnosed with PTSD and depression, however. In their report, the researchers wrote: “In the current study, however, we did not find that PTSD was associated with overall rates of family problems. In contrast, depression was most consistently related to the presence of both readjustment and domestic abuse problems.”
Many of the veterans at the Medical Center with PTSD were already in treatment in the Behavioral Health Service and were therefore not part of the sample referred for evaluation.
Press release, Depression May Play a Bigger Role in Readjustment Than Previously Thought in Troubled Vets; http://www.apa.org/releases/vetdepressionC07.html