Connection between PTSD, the U.S. Military, and Homelessness

PTSD is an issue that can be linked to homelessness in a number of ways. Someone who has served in the military can become unhoused due to PTSD they acquired in combat; individuals who get PTSD from traumatic events while experiencing homelessness; and the third, and least talked about, are the issues related to homelessness which can lead to this disorder. PTSD and homelessness are linked together, and knowing why is only a part of the solution.

PTSD is a body’s response to traumatic events. Different people will have different reactions to traumatic events in which some will experience some form of PTSD. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that the symptoms of PTSD are categorized in three ways: reliving an event, avoidance, and arousal. After a traumatic event, symptoms may not be present for weeks. Someone who has a history of traumatic events is at a higher risk of acquiring PTSD.

Veterans who have PTSD tend to experience homelessness for a number of reasons.  A veteran who has been through traumatic events while in the military may not have had the proper care to address their trauma effectively. A veteran with PTSD will have trouble adjusting back to civilian life, which may lead to strained relationships with friends, family, and employers, making it harder to thrive and maintain housing stability. 

Homelessness can also be a cause of PTSD. Losing a home or connections with friends and family is a traumatic experience for many who have to now look for places to sleep and food to eat.

 According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “The ongoing condition of homelessness and its attendant stressors, such as the uncertainty of where to find food and safe shelter, can erode a person’s coping mechanisms.” 

Individuals experiencing homelessness may also not feel safe due to being unsheltered and exposed to traumatic events such as sexual assault or violence.

PTSD can be a cause of homelessness or be acquired while unhoused. Knowing the reasons why PTSD and homelessness are linked is only a part of the solution. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs must do a better job of addressing PTSD and other mental health issues among their military and servicemen.

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