What is the role of posttraumatic stress disorder in the development of suicidal behaviors?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Survivors of trauma (eg, childhood sexual abuse, recent physical devastation, physical/emotional abuse) struggle with flashbacks and nightmares. These individuals frequently alternate between periods of hypervigilance and periods of psychic numbing.

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experience a high rate of PTSD—with many struggling with feelings of being damaged and with feelings of guilt—and have a historically high rate of suicide. [28, 29, 30]

Postdeployment readjustment problems affecting veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) are well documented, but the possible relationship of readjustment stressors to the increase in military suicides is not.

Kline et al found that after adjusting for mental health and combat exposure, veterans with the highest number of readjustment stressors had a 5.5 times greater risk of suicidal ideation than those with no stressors. This suggests that suicide prevention efforts that more directly target readjustment problems in returning OEF/OIF veterans are needed. [31]

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