PTSD during the Afghanistan War vs. PTSD in Vietnam War

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PTSD refers to the condition where people experience upsetting memories, flashbacks, and anxiety, related to any traumatic event. It is a mental health condition oftentimes, encountered by the soldiers. Whether it was Vietnam War or any other battle, it cannot be denied that the soldiers came back home terrorized. Some of the examples of life-threatening events are sexual assault, a car accident, a natural disaster, or combat. In fact, it is considered to be usual for the army men to have sleeping troubles or feel edgy after occurrence of such types of events. Sometimes carrying out all the necessary daily life chores such as spending time with the near and dear ones, going to the work, and many more also becomes difficult. However, most of the people get well after few months or weeks. On the contrary, if these symptoms remain prevalent then chances are high that the same is identical to PTSD. Alternatively, the PTSD symptoms may come and go as well instead of showing consistent symptoms. At times, it may appear after a long time of any event’s occurrence. Furthermore, the personal factors such as age, traumatic exposure, and gender can actually determine whether a person will develop the PTSD or not. The experiences with the PTSD’s symptoms are unique for everyone. For instance, a person can have nightmares or bad memories. On the other hand, some may want to stay away from any type of situation which resembles the main trauma itself. At times, he or she can even refrain from talking about the same. As a result, this paper will elucidate how the Vietnam War’s veterans suffered from PTSD in comparison to the war that occurred against the Afghanistan.


Vietnam War and PTSD

According to the study of NVVLS, it has been deduced that many of the Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the war are were physically as well as mentally fit.  On the contrary, various people are still suffering from PTSD along with other health issues that are chronic in nature. Even the male soldiers suffered from the condition more than the female soldiers. It also led to many other peripheral diseases.

It has been noted that the soldiers who go to the warfare often become nostalgic. For instance, they feel like going back home or have sleeping problems. Military trauma, on the other hand, is a big problem all together, when perceived from the PTSD’s condition. Oftentimes, the psychologists referred to PTSD as a psychological injury and nothing else.

In the case of Vietnam War, at least some amount of preventive measures was taken for decreasing the impact of war that was exerted on the soldiers, psychologically. For example, from the initial stage itself, each battalion of the military was provided the medical personnel so as to treat all the psychological and physical problems. Interestingly, the initial result was splendid as only a handful of psychological causalities were reported by the militants, to the government. However, with the increase in public outcry cases of combat also surged. The public became furious by questioning the validity of Vietnam War (Steenkamp et al. 859). At times, even soldiers who went over there were looked down upon. It also led to a greater stigmatization of the army men who fought in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, even though the psychological toll on various Vietnam soldiers was vast yet they received a cold welcome from their country’s end. The anti-war activists demonstrated a hostile behavior towards the U.S. soldiers. It made them even more prone to PTSD. The psychological afflictions were the result of harsh treatments done with the Vietnam’s soldiers. Moreover, the Vietnam War’s soldiers experienced combat fatigue, mostly in the end period of their tours.

On the other hand, Vietnam veterans are actually reluctant to share their problems at any cost. Almost 270, 000 of Vietnam veterans actually suffer from PTSD, currently. Others are also suffering from one or the other mental illness such as depression disorder and similar conditions. Moreover, Vietnam veterans who recover from this condition do so after few months of its occurrence. On the other hand, the people who cannot get well easily are likely to suffer from the same for longer period of time.  It ultimately leads to a chronic condition of the soldiers.

Major difference with the occurring war of Afghanistan

The veterans of Afghanistan and Gulf Wars also suffered from similar conditions like that of the Vietnam War. However, during the Vietnam War, PTSD-related researches were merely in the initial stages (Pittman et al. 101). As a result, it is important to understand that the veterans of Vietnam suffered the most. Many researchers were not at all successful as well.

War against Afghanistan and PTSD

The military personnel of Afghanistan suffered heavily than other war veterans. Many marines, sailors, and soldiers actually died off from severe wounds in various wars because of the unreachable medical technology and science. The chaotic nature that can be witnessed in the combat of Afghan theatres is the primary reason for a condition like PTSD. On the other hand, causalities were mostly caused by none other than the blasts (Stecker et al. 281). They were the manifestations of various improvised explosion devices. The OIF and OEF conflicts were primarily characterized by the protracted combat operations, urban warfare, and terrorist strikes. Even the pervasion hazards were also resulted from the bomb-blasts in the roadsides. The physical injuries also pressurized the army men to enter into a mental trauma. For instance, they got inflicted by different explosive devices which caused blindness, burns, traumatic brain injuries, initial limb injuries, and spinal cord injuries leading to instant need for amputation. The severe and multi-faced wounds contributed to the full-body injuries. Poly-trauma is even more dangerous for the veterans.

It is extremely substantial to remember that the poly-traumatic phases were not suffered by the Vietnam veterans. As a result, a big distinction can be witnessed in these two cases. Moreover, poly-trauma also leads to psychological, physical, psychosocial and mental injuries along with the functional incapacity. The physically and psychologically wounded Afghani veterans still face significant challenges while leading their lives. On the other hand, the political environments that existed on the very home front of Afghanistan actually led the veterans towards a more traumatic experience (Stappenbeck et al. 65). Their healing was also not possible lucidly. Thus, the irreversible damage caused psychologically was definitely more in comparison to the veterans who attended the Vietnam’s battlefield. Alternatively, the rate of complex challenges was more for the Afghan veterans as well.

On the contrary, many of the Afghan soldiers came back home and returned to the combat. They have served at least three to four tours. Arguably, most of the veterans of Vietnam merely served only a single tour during their military tenure. The ratio of wounds is also more in the case of Afghan war than the prior one. However, rate of the military personnel who survived during the war is more for the Afghanistan War. It is mainly due to the development of better defense system such as combat medicine and body armour. The promptness shown for evacuation was also higher. In fact, the service members who got injuries will require lifetime care. Often they also remain devoid of the same because of the irresponsible government unlike U.S.

The Vietnam veterans were provided a lot more provisions for leading a healthy lifestyle. It is because of the robust initiation of U.S. government. On the contrary, the U.S. government provided the veterans of Vietnam many facilities. The difference of these two nations’ conduct towards the soldiers may be related to their statuses. For example, the U.S. is already a developed nation which assists its countrymen in every way possible. On the other hand, the political stability of Afghanistan has reached the lowest level of a hierarchy. The brain damage is a big problem for the soldiers of Afghanistan. Even the soldiers of America who joined the war suffered from serious brain wounds or damages (Morey 2988). On the other hand, the trauma will actually leave a permanent effect on these soldiers’ mood, memory, behavior thereby collapsing their ability to work and think adequately. There are other differences between the Vietnam and Afghan War veterans. The differences have been exhibited in the form of gender, age, and marital status. Many female veterans went to the Afghan War. On the contrary, men were more in number in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War soldiers’ ages were more than the Afghan veterans. Furthermore, the women who went in the Afghan War also held jobs primarily, as per the record. The history records of Afghan veterans were different from that of the Vietnam War. For example, they were divorced, separated, married or incarcerated. Hence, it can be understood to what extent soldiers were affected by PTSD in both these wars but in distinct manners. The violent behaviors were more common in the case of afghan veterans than their counterparts. Unfortunately, it is noticeably that the Vietnam veterans and sailors were vulnerable to substance abuse than the Afghan veterans (McNally and Frueh 522).  Oftentimes, it has been witnessed that the compensation amount received by the Vietnam veterans was less in comparison to the other wars’ veterans. It is another reason for the trauma that they suffered from. However, the governmental support was definitely more for the veterans of Vietnam.

There are many factors which led the Afghan veterans to the development of PTSD such as severe combat exposure, longer deployment time, seeing their near and dear ones killed or wounded, severe physical injury, lower rank, traumatic brain injury, lower schooling level, not being married, low morale, prior trauma exposure, poor social support, Hispanic ethic group, and many others. During the Vietnam War, various researches were going on largely (UDVA). As a result, the Afghan veterans enjoyed a lot more safety measures because of the prior researchers. Hence, it can be said that they were in an advantageous position. Moreover, the severity of PTSD is likely to be more if the veterans had more of a comfortable childhood. On the other hand, a sturdy and tough childhood can help in adapting with the external circumstances including wars or other life-altering events. Thus, the psychological impact is also quite less in such a scenario.


It can be inferred from the above-essay that the Afghanistan’s veterans were knowledgeable about their vulnerability pertaining to the PTSD. On the other hand, Vietnam veterans had inadequate information about the same. The age, marital status, and other aspects were different corresponding to the Vietnam veterans in variation to the Afghan veterans. For example, more Afghan soldiers were females whereas Vietnamese were mostly men (Scott 93). On the contrary, it can be understood that Afghan army men took more trips for the war than the Vietnam veterans. It cannot be denied that the PTSD affected Afghan soldiers more but they recovered much faster and went to the warfare once more. On the contrary, it cannot be said that the U.S. government did not support the Vietnam veterans. In fact, they got more support. However, the compensation amount was less somehow. A psychology-related technical term such as PTSD evolved after the Vietnam War. During that time, only researches were conducted in higher numbers. As a result, it cannot be denied that the people of Afghan were not looked after, by the government who suffered from the severe PTSD. On the other hand, the higher number of female Afghan veterans made them more exposed to traumas. They were not only subject to psychological traumas but also physical injuries were evident largely.

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  1. “History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5.” UDVA, 2016.
  2. McNally, Richard J., and B. Christopher Frueh. “Why are Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans seeking PTSD disability compensation at unprecedented rates?.” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol. 27, no.5, 2013, pp. 520-526.
  3. Morey, Rajendra A., et al. “Effects of chronic mild traumatic brain injury on white matter integrity in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.” Human Brain Mapping, vol.34, no.11, 2013, pp. 2986-2999.
  4. Pittman, James OE, et al. “Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and health-related quality of life in OEF/OIF veterans.” Quality of Life Research, vol. 21, no.1, 2012, pp. 99-103.
  5. “PTSD and Vietnam Veterans: A Lasting Issue 40 Years Later.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016.
  6. Scott, Wilbur. The politics of readjustment: Vietnam veterans since the war. Routledge, 2017.
  7. Stappenbeck, Cynthia A., et al. “The effects of alcohol problems, PTSD, and combat exposure on nonphysical and physical aggression among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.” Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, vol. 6, no.1, 2014, pp. 65-70.
  8. Stecker, Tracy, et al. “Treatment-seeking barriers for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who screen positive for PTSD.” Psychiatric Services, vol. 64, no.3, 2013, pp. 280-283.
  9. Steenkamp, Maria M., et al. “Latent classes of PTSD symptoms in Vietnam veterans.” Behavior Modification, vol. 36, no.6, 2012, pp. 857-874.
  10. “The Long Struggle of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD.” The National Veterans Foundation, 2017.
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