A recent study from Germany found that only half of the soldiers exhibiting symptoms of PTSD were seeking treatment.
The results showed that nearly half (49 percent) of the soldiers who returned from Afghanistan had experienced at least one traumatic event while they were abroad on duty.
"Seek help for PTSD."
The study also found, less surprisingly, that deployment doubles or quadruples the risk of a soldier developing PTSD.
The study was led by Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, PhD, and Sabine Schönfeld, PhD, of the Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy and the Center of Clinical Epidemiology and Longitudinal Studies at Technische Universität in Dresden, Germany.
The study group included a group of 1,599 German soldiers who had served in Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 mission.
A year after these soldiers returned to Germany, their mental health was assessed for any mental disorders and for PTSD.
The researchers used the diagnosis criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The DSM-IV is the book used for official mental health condition diagnoses.
Then the researchers compared this group of Afghanistan veterans to 880 similar soldiers who were not deployed abroad.
A total of 13 percent of the deployed soldiers experienced more than three traumatic events during their time in Afghanistan.
The researchers found that 2.9 percent of the deployed soldiers experienced PTSD during the year after they returned to Germany.
This rate translates to about 300 cases of PTSD for every 10,000 soldiers who are deployed to Afghanistan.
When compared to the rate of PTSD in the control group of non-deployed soldiers — 1.2 percent — deployment increases the risk of PTSD two to four times in soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
Soldiers who served in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan or in combat units were at the highest risk for developing PTSD.
Among the soldiers who had symptoms of PTSD, only 45 percent sought treatment for their condition.
The German rate of 2.9 percent of soldiers with PTSD is considerably lower than that reported in the U.S., which ranges from 9 percent to 20 percent, according to background research in this study.
However, it is possible that the high rate of undiagnosed PTSD in general among German troops is similar in the U.S.
The study included a long list of traumatic events that the soldiers experienced.
The most common traumatic events included seeing destroyed homes and villages, receiving incoming fire, experiencing hostile reactions from civilians, being unable to help injured women or children, seeing dead or seriously injured comrades, being attacked or ambushed and seeing dead bodies.
The study was published in the current issue of the German journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. The research was supported by the Center for Psychiatry and Psychological Trauma at the Hospital of the German Federal Armed Forces in Berlin.
The authors all declared no conflicts of interest except Dr. Schönfeld, who has received travel and conference fees from Pfizer.