When returning from active duty overseas, what is the risk for depression?
Depending on where your spouse is stationed, the risk for depression may be no higher than the general population, or it may be significantly increased because of his or her location and assigned duties. The closer your spouse is to combat, both geographically and occupationally, the higher the potential for developing post traumatic stress disorder and resulting alcoholism and depression. Some recent evidence has shown that the highest rates of post traumatic stress disorder and resulting depression come from soldiers who have fired on and witnessed their enemy being killed in contrast to being injured. A recent study on returning Iraqi soldiers, however, demonstrated that being fired on or ambushed did result in higher rates of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Nearly every soldier who returns from combat will suffer from some symptoms of trauma, although most will turn these experiences into constructive, character-building memories that will serve them well in their future endeavors. However, in those soldiers who continue to experience symptoms consistent with the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, the rates of depression approach 50%. The longer those symptoms persist, the more resistant to treatment they become; thus, it is important that they be treated as soon as possible. This is often the tricky part, as it is hard to get a spouse returning from combat to admit to having a problem, as he or she would feel that this admits to weakness and failure as a soldier.