Anxiety:

Anxiety problems are common and uncomfortable. Almost one-third of adults will experience some form of distressing anxiety at some point in their lifetime. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling restless, jumpy, or on edge

  • Excessive worrying about everyday decisions

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • A racing heart or cold, clammy hands

  • Trembling or twitching

  • Having trouble catching your breath

  • Feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded

  • Difficulty sleeping

 

The good news is that there are effective treatment options for overcoming problems with anxiety.  

 

Types of Anxiety

I - Social Anxiety

Most people feel anxious in some social situations, some of the time, but for people with social phobia, that anxiety is strong and long-lasting. Social phobia can keep people from doing things they want to do, such as public speaking or attending a crowded event like a concert or a football game.

II - Generalized Anxiety

People with generalized anxiety feel as if they’re always worrying or anxious about a range of things in their daily lives. They have trouble controlling or stopping these worries — whether they're about work, school, money, relationships, or their health.

People with generalized anxiety sometimes describe themselves as “worry warts” and often are told that they worry too much. They may also experience symptoms of tension, including restlessness, tiring easily, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep difficulties, and inability to relax.

III - Panic Attacks

People with panic disorder have recurrent, unexpected episodes of intense fear or discomfort called panic attacks. A panic attack is accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, a racing or pounding heart, trembling, chest pain, stomach distress, dizziness or lightheadedness, and numbing or tingling. During a panic attack, people often feel afraid that they are out of control or even that their life is at risk.

Although most people experience a panic attack at some point, those with panic disorder worry about having more panic attacks and will often do things to try to prevent them. They might avoid situations that are difficult to leave, such as a client meeting or concert, because they fear having a panic attack. This can significantly limit a person’s ability to experience and enjoy life. When people avoid situations because they are afraid they will have a panic attack, they may be experiencing panic disorder with agoraphobia.

IV - Specific Phobias

A person with a specific phobia experiences intense fear in response to a particular object or situation. For example, fear of blood or needles, of enclosed places, and of flying are common specific phobias.

Sometimes specific phobias arise or become more of an issue after a person relocates to an area with a higher risk of encountering what they fear. For example, if someone has a specific phobia of earthquakes, that fear may intensify after moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, where earthquakes are common. The key to coping with these phobias is recognizing when they are getting in the way of your everyday life.  

Bipolar:

Veterans with bipolar disorder can experience a range of symptoms, including noticeable swings in energy, mood, or hours of sleep needed. Bipolar disorder involves distinct periods of unusually elevated, high energy lasting for at least several days (manic or hypomanic episodes), often accompanied by an overly good mood. Manic or hypomanic episodes are often followed by longer periods of low, depressed mood (depressive episodes).

Depression:

Depressive disorder can affect anyone. It may be marked by feelings of intense sadness or hopelessness, and some find that they lose interest or pleasure in activities that they used to enjoy. People with depression can experience feelings of guilt, unworthiness, or low self-esteem, and they may start avoiding being around people.

Depression is a common but serious disorder — one that typically requires some treatment to manage. The good news is that even the most severe cases of depression are treatable.

The signs and symptoms of depression may be hard to notice at first, so it’s important to be aware of your thoughts, moods, and behaviors and note if they start to change.

Common signs of depression

  • Feeling sad or hopeless

  • Losing interest in or not getting pleasure from most of your daily activities

  • Gaining or losing weight

  • Sleeping too much or not enough almost every day

  • Feeling tired or as if you have no energy almost every day

  • Eating more or less than usual almost every day

Effects of TBI:

Many events can deliver a blow or jolt to your head, potentially causing a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In fact, between 2000 and 2017, the Department of Defense reported more than 375,000 diagnosed cases of TBI among members of the U.S. armed forces around the world.

 

The brain affects how you think; how you feel; how you act. So a TBI can affect your physical functions, thinking abilities, behaviors, and more. The injury can range from mild to severe, and it may increase your risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as sleeping problems.

 

What Causes TBI?

A traumatic brain injury can result from:

  • A blow to your head by an object, such as a fist during a fight

  • Your head striking an object, such as the inside of a vehicle during a crash

  • The impact to your head of a nearby blast or explosion

 

Common Symptoms

Most TBI injuries are considered mild, but even mild cases can involve serious long-term effects on areas such as thinking ability, memory, mood, and mental focus. Common symptoms may include:

  • Headaches

  • Blurred vision

  • Hearing problems

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Dizziness

  • Changes in your sense of taste or smell

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things

  • Repeating yourself

  • Becoming easily angry or frustrated

 

While most people with mild TBI have symptoms that resolve within hours, days, or weeks, a minority may experience persistent symptoms that last for several months or longer.

Screening

Veterans who use VA health care must undergo mandatory TBI screening if they served in combat operations. The four-question screen identifies Veterans who were exposed to events that increase the risk for TBI and have symptoms that may be related to that specific event or events. VA providers discuss the results of the comprehensive evaluations with the Veteran and recommend follow-on care with primary care and other specialty providers, as necessary.

Military Sexual Trauma:

VA uses the term “military sexual trauma” (MST) to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. MST includes any sexual activity that you are involved with against your will. Examples include:

  • Being pressured or coerced into sexual activities, such as with threats of negative treatment if you refuse to cooperate or with promises of better treatment in exchange for sex

  • Sexual contact or activities without your consent, including when you were asleep or intoxicated

  • Being overpowered or physically forced to have sex

  • Being touched or grabbed in a sexual way that made you uncomfortable, including during “hazing” experiences

  • Comments about your body or sexual activities that you found threatening

  • Unwanted sexual advances that you found threatening

 

Anyone can experience MST, regardless of gender. Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Things you may experience could include:

  • Disturbing memories or nightmares

  • Difficulty feeling safe

  • Feelings of depression or numbness

  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs

  • Feeling isolated from other people

  • Problems with anger, irritability, or other strong emotions

  • Issues with sleep

  • Physical health problems

PTSD:

Sometimes, when you experience a traumatic event — a car accident, an IED blast, military sexual trauma, or the death of a fellow Service member — that moment can continue to bother you weeks, months, and even years later.

That can mean reliving the event: constantly replaying it in your head. It can mean avoiding places or things that remind you of the experience. It can also mean nightmares, sleeplessness, or anxiety. You might feel numb or, conversely, feel hyperaware of your surroundings.

The symptoms and effects of posttraumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, can disrupt your everyday life. People with PTSD sometimes withdraw from their family members and friends. They can find it hard to concentrate, startle easily, and lose interest in things they used to care about. Some may try to dull their feelings by misusing alcohol or drugs.

If you think you might have PTSD, there are resources to help you recover. Even if your symptoms come and go — or surfaced months or years after the traumatic event — effective treatments are available. Explore this page to learn about treatment options, self-help tools, and more.

 

Screening

If you are bothered by thoughts and feelings from a trauma, you may wonder if you have PTSD. Taking a screening — either online or at a VA medical center (VAMC) — is a good idea. Only a mental health care provider can diagnose PTSD, but the screening can help you and your provider understand if you might benefit from treatment.

Schizophrenia:

Are you having a tough time thinking clearly, or making sense when you speak? Do you feel like sometimes you see or hear things that might not actually be there? These symptoms can be scary, especially the first time you experience them, and they might be a sign of a mental illness called schizophrenia.

If you suspect you have experienced symptoms like these, it is important to consult your doctor. Schizophrenia may hinder your ability to make good decisions and affect your personal relationships, so it is important to share your experiences with a medical professional who can help.

Many people with schizophrenia can recover and live full lives when their condition is correctly diagnosed and treated. They are able to finish school, hold steady jobs, enjoy relationships, and live independently. But it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia experience different symptoms, but here are some common signs to recognize:

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions, such as feeling like you are being watched or followed when you are not

  • Confused thinking

  • Changes in feelings and behaviors

  • Difficulty feeling and expressing positive emotions

  • Reduced range of emotional expression, such as limited facial expressions or eye contact

  • Difficulty getting out of the house, doing things with other people, or pursuing goals such as going to work, attending school, or maintaining relationships

  • Trouble concentrating or paying attention, memory loss, or slow thinking

It’s important to discuss these signs with a doctor, as symptoms for schizophrenia can be similar to those of other mental health conditions.

Substance Use:

Alcohol and other drugs are often used in response to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. Despite the temporary relief a substance may seem to provide, increased substance use can lead to long-term consequences.

What Is Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

 

Often referred to as "addiction," substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that causes people to have difficulty controlling their use of alcohol, drugs, and other substances, including opioids. Untreated, this misuse can begin to influence many aspects of life.

 

Signs and Symptoms of SUD

  • Increased urge to drink or to use drugs.

  • Inability to stop drinking or using drugs, despite negative consequences.

  • Change in relationships due to drinking or drug use.

  • Feeling depressed or anxious about your substance use.

  • Feeling sick and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking or drug use stops.

  • Increased tolerance, which refers to the need over time for more alcohol or stronger drugs to achieve the desired effect.

 

Fortunately, there are many ways to recover from alcohol or drug use disorders. Take the next step and learn about the many VA treatments available, including in- and outpatient care, medications, support groups, specialized therapy, and more.

Suicide Prevention:

Suicide is a serious concern in the military/veteran community. 

According to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report

  • The average number of Veteran suicides per day was 17.6 in 2018. 

  • The rate of suicide among Veterans who received recent VA care decreased by 2.4%

  • No VA analyses to date indicate COVID-19 pandemic-era increases in VA health system-reported Veteran suicides, attempts or volume of emergency department visits related to suicide attempts. 

Tobacco:

There is a long history of smoking and other tobacco use in the military. Many Veterans used tobacco while they served, particularly during deployment. Now seven out of every 10 Veterans who smoke would like to quit — for both the physical benefits and their mental health.

A majority of them are successful.

If you’re one of those Veterans, or if the Veteran in your life is trying to quit, you’ve come to the right place. VA offers resources for making a quit plan and sticking to it.

It’s been said before and it’s true: You can quit smoking. And we want to be there when you do.

United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Mental Health Awareness