PTSD for veterans has so many images and misconceptions it is hard to know where to start. Images of the images in movies and television of combat veterans returning home with flashbacks and violent outburst dominate our society yet make up an extremely small percentage of actual incidents. Yet these images are still perpetuated by media and veterans. The need in American culture to not treat Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as Vietnam Veterans were treated has cuased an extreme reaction of constantly "Thank you for your Service" comments which results in a need of veterans to publicly display their combat veteran status. The explosion of hats and apparel broadcasting service has lead to the death of the quit professional and the rise of the "look at me, I'm a veteran, treat me different." In doing so the VA has fallen over themselves to diagnose anyone who went overseas with PTSD, proscribe medication, and dispense disability funds. But there are a few unintended consequences to this and I will focus on the one that I see almost every day, how PTSD is treated in family law courts.
I consistently see soldiers and veterans coming to my office who are facing not only custody issues, but also a Protective order. The allegations are generally the same. "he was/is in the military, has a lot of firearms and suffers from PTSD. I am fearful he is not taking his mdication." The implication is that a PTSD sufferer is always dangers. Why is this? Other mental health issues are not treated this way, with a presumption of danger. I don't see allegations of "he suffers from depression and he is dangers."
The reason is simple, we have infused PTSD connected to veterans as an event that always causes delusional flashbacks that the veteran believes he is in active combat again. This is not from the science or studies of the condition but are from what Hollywood portrays and what veterans reinforce.
Not all veterans are combat veterans, not even all service members who have deployed saw combat. A vast percentage of them did not, yet they still can and do suffer from PTSD but not the kind that causes violence. Violence in PTSD is a small percentage of cases but it is consistently used as a weapon at the beginning of cases to boaster the claim the veteran is violent. I have seen cases that this claim has been made despite the family living together for several years with PTSD and it was fine until a divorce was filed.
It is time for attorneys, judges, and all parties learn the true nature of PTSD, realize it is the same as all other mental health issues in that it is different for everyone. Each case should be taken on the merits and not a preconception that PTSD in veterans is always violence. Its time we move out of the images from movies.