Myth Busters

We often hear that people struggle to understand mental health and trauma because the injuries that Veterans come to Combat Stress with cannot be seen.

We have developed this quick Myth Buster guide to answer some questions we hear regularly. We want people to know more about veterans' mental health and the symptoms of trauma so that they can have the conversations that tackle stigma and make it easier for people to seek help.

If you think someone you know should take a look, or would like to help tackle the stigma of Veteran mental health, please share this page using one of the options on the top right or on Twitter using #CSMythBuster.

PTSD: Like being a T-Rex trying to change the bed sheets



Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the only mental illness caused by military service.

PTSD is one of the mental illnesses most associated with military service but there are a range of other more common mental illnesses which might affect Service and ex-service personnel.  These include depression, feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol misuse.

Mental illnesses only occur amongst junior ranks, senior ranks don't get them.

This is incorrect. Mental illness as a result of the traumatic experiences witnessed during Armed Forces service can affect any member of the Armed Forces regardless of rank. We have treated Veterans of various ranks suffering from PTSD and other mental ill-health - from Privates up to Brigadiers.

You can only get mental illness if you have seen combat.

Far from it, there are many traumatic experiences that sailors, soldiers and airmen could witness during their military careers which take place outside of live combat situations. Whether it is training incidents, administering medical treatment, or other activities in war zones, these traumatic experiences can stay with personnel and lead to mental ill-health in later life.

PTSD is the biggest mental health problem facing the UK Veteran community.

PTSD is a problem for a minority of Veterans. Around 1 in 25 Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are likely to develop PTSD, similar to that in the general public. However, while the rate of occurrence is similar, the complexity of the disorder tends to be much greater in Veterans. Furthermore, it often occurs alongside other medical problems such as pain, disability and substance misuse, particularly alcohol misuse.

You cannot cure PTSD.

PTSD has been left untreated for a number of years or decades will require more intensive treatment. There are still positive health outcomes for sufferers, and the potential for a life beyond symptoms, but seeking suitable, timely treatment is key to maximising the chances of recovery. If PTSD is diagnosed early and the sufferer receives the right treatment in the right environment, rates of recovery are very positive. Veterans can live normal fulfilling lives, able to work with the condition and generally become symptom free for long periods.

There is a risk of delayed-onset of PTSD, where symptoms do not occur for years or decades after the traumatic event. Veterans who present with delayed-onset PTSD have often been exposed to the effects of multiple traumas over a longer period of time. This suggests that those who serve multiple tours are more at risk of developing PTSD several years after leaving the Military. 

Most UK Armed Forces personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan return with psychological injuries.

The majority of Armed Forces personnel deployed do not experience lasting mental wounds as a result of their service. However, around 1 in 25 Regulars and 1 in 20 Reservists will report symptoms of PTSD following deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is very similar to the rate in the general population.

Furthermore, 1 in 5 veterans are likely to suffer from a common mental illness - such as depression, anxiety or substance (generally alcohol) misuse - which has been caused or aggravated by their Armed Forces experiences.

There is a bow wave of Veterans' mental health problems building up.

As the UK's leading veterans' mental health charity, Combat Stress has experienced an increase in the number of referrals year on year. However, recent studies suggest this is due to an increased awareness of the symptoms and where to seek help.