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The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a substantial number of veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The adverse effects of PTSD on the lives of war veterans has long been acknowledged in trauma literature. Depressive symptoms of PTSD are particularly damaging as they often cause psychosocial dysfunction and may lead to suicide. The number of veterans who have committed suicide as a result of psychological problems either caused or exacerbated by the stresses of combat and military service is remarkable. One of the causes of depressive symptoms of PTSD is survivor guilt, which are feelings of self-condemnation over having survived when ones comrades were killed. Stigma of mental illness has emerged as a powerful barrier to treatment and social support seeking in veterans of the current conflicts. The male gender norm of emotional toughness has strengthened this barrier. This project is a discussion of the paradoxical relationship between stigma and survivor guilt as direct contributors to the lack of amelioration of PTSD symptoms. It includes original theories about the pathogenesis of depressive PTSD symptoms. Several treatments and preventative interventions that have been designed to target stigma and depressive symptoms were analyzed. Research that uncovers several risk factors for the development of these symptoms was also reviewed. This synthesis of research led to inferences as to how current interventions and policies can be improved in the interest of enhancing treatment of PTSD and preventing further distress and suicide in veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Greenwald, Benjamin, "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Stigma, and Survivor Guilt in Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 252.