- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) - On a recent Saturday morning, more than two dozen men suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder packed into a room for group therapy to share their feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, guilt and hyper vigilance.

In another room, their wives aired their own difficulties and learned how to cope with their spouses’ PTSD .

The scene is repeated several times a week in Brevard County and hundreds of times throughout the country as more veterans seek help for the “invisible wound of war.”

The number of veterans suffering from PTSD is expected to continue increasing with the U.S involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down.

“I think what we’re going to see is thousands and thousands” more cases, said Scott Fairchild, a Melbourne psychologist who specializes in treating PTSD, primarily among veterans. “There is going to be a segment that is going to stuff it in a closet. This festers for a number of years.”

Between 11 and 20 out of every 100 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer with PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA believes that as many as 10 percent of Gulf War veterans and about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD.

PTSD is a condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic or terrifying event, such as in war, sexual assault, and disasters, in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened.

Symptoms can come quickly or come to the surface many years later. They include nightmares, sleeplessness, anxiety, hyper vigilance, anger, feelings of guilt.

Army veteran Paul Benitez served in Desert Storm and the Iraq War and spent several years working as a process server before his anxiety and hyper vigilance became a hindrance in his everyday life.


Neal Johnson talks about the effects of PTSD at Baytree Behavioral Health. (Photo: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY)


enitez’s feeling of always having to have his guard up is only one of the many symptoms of PTSD that war veterans and others suffer through. While serving in Iraq in 2003, Benitez and a team of about five soldiers and two Iraqi police would guard the gate at their small forward base, while other soldiers went on missions. He said no one should have to see the carnage that resulted from the fighting in Desert Storm and the Iraq War.

“We were stuck at the gate, so we were like sitting ducks waiting for anyone to come in and attack, which happened a few times,” he said.

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