PTSD vs. Combat-Related PTSD

October 23, 2014 Harry Croft, M.D.

This blog is specifically geared toward combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, there are many people outside of this situation who also suffer from PTSD. This blog is not meant to suggest that this significant group of people doesn’t exist. Here is some information about PTSD in multiple populations.

Causes of PTSD

Of course, being in or around combat can cause PTSD, but any trauma (a frightening event), particularly those that are life-threatening, can also cause PTSD. For example, a person might suffer from PTSD after:

  • Child sexual abuse
  • An assault such as a physical or sexual assault
  • Living through a disaster, such as a major earthquake
  • An event where you thought your life or the life of another was in danger

Trauma in Everyday Life

Trauma itself is not rare, and just like not all veterans suffer from combat PTSD, not all non-veterans who experiences a trauma suffer from PTSD either. In fact:

  • Approximately 60% of men will experience a trauma at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 50% of women will experience a trauma at some point in their lives.

In spite of these high numbers, only about 7-8% of the population will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.

Number of Veterans who Suffer from Combat PTSD

PTSD is often suffered by those in the military, but combat-related PTSD is not the only kind. Other people do suffer from traumas and PTSD.

While 7-8% of the general population (including veterans) will experience PTSD at some point in their lives:

  • Between 11-20% of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience PTSD in a given year.
  • About 12% of those who served in desert storm experience PTSD in a given year.
  • It is estimated that about 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetimes.

It’s also important to remember that other non-combat-related traumas, such as sexual assault do happen in the military. In fact, among veterans who use Veteran Administration healthcare, approximately:

  • 23% of women report sexual assault in the military
  • 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment in the military

Treating PTSD vs. Combat-Related PTSD

Most PTSD treatments are developed for the population at large and few are dedicated towards combat-related PTSD specifically. That said, we do know that general treatments for PTSD work for many people no matter what the cause of their PTSD.

So while there are specific challenges faced by those with combat-related PTSD, we know that all people with PTSD can get PTSD treatment and recover.

For statistic references, please see the Veterans Administration PTSD site.

You can also connect with Dr. Harry Croft on his website, Google+, Facebook,Linkedin and Twitter.

APA Reference
Croft, H. (2014, October 23). PTSD vs. Combat-Related PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Harry Croft, M.D.

Dr. Harry Croft is a keynote speaker, consultant, and media guest and contributor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He currently acts as a trainer and consultant to businesses with regard to veterans, PTSD, and employment-related issues.

Find Dr. Croft's book, I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall, here, and find out more about him on his website.

Lamonte Collis Wooten
September, 21 2023 at 1:29 pm

I do not have a clue the trauma I endure as a child should be called!!!! I've experienced sexual assaults from multiple woman. I've watched as my father assaulted my mother to many times to count watching the police take my father away was very confusing. As much as i hate talking about this I watched my father shoot him self in the foot pulling the gun out on my mothers brother!!! being the youngest out of four i was thrown under the bus so much i volunteer so head first i would travel through the air saying to my self the black sheep has nothing on me

Mel Thornburg
November, 27 2014 at 1:56 am

Your all wrong. There is no such thing as psych disease and never was. When they gave us all Host dependent latent gene sharing stealth infections for decades all US has was criminals hoaxes and drugs used just to kill them faster.…
Throw your DSM's in the trash where they throw over 10,000 brain infected soldiers after adding to the mix of gene sharing stealth they knew they all had just to kill them faster.

stop trying to split PTSD
October, 27 2014 at 10:05 pm

there is no divide between PTSD and 'Combat PTSD', nor is 'combat PTSD' a medical term. They are the same disorder with exactly the same treatment
Combat PTSD gets more research and more clinical trials and funding. The area of PTSD with the worst funding is complex PTSD (see the proposed ICD-11 diagnosis and EPCACE in the ICD-10). Complex PTSD *does* have additional symptoms and does not respond to treatments like prolonged exposure therapy which are effective for other forms of PTSD.
see graph for differences -
How about highlighting the Dissociative (depersonalized/derealized) subtype of PTSD, or complex PTSD, which are distinct, instead of creating an artifical divide which separates the "abused" from the "brave heroes".
Vets with PTSD don't put this artificial divide and stigma onto abuse survivors. But the media does and articles like this just intensify internal stigma that we must not talk about abuse.
Some forms of PTSD are socially acceptable, like those from combat or natural disasters, some are not, and funding and services are drastically reduced for them.
I'm unsurprised by the lack of references here. You won't find any research suggesting that combat PTSD and PTSD are different. Quite simply, they aren't. And yes, I read all the DSM-5 workgroup reports for PTSD.
Distinguishing PTSD, Complex PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder: A latent class analysis
Marylène Cloitre, Donn W. Garvert, Brandon Weiss, Eve B. Carlson, Richard A. Bryant
full paper on complex PTSD vs PTSD
Dissociative specifier for PTSD explained - btw this affects the military as well, has a different course in therapy, and has excellent neuroscience behind it showing the differences in this form of PTSD -…

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Richard De La Cruz
August, 29 2018 at 11:06 pm

Interested in your comments. Are you a doctor or a combat veteran or something else?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 6 2022 at 4:08 pm

There are actually very specific considerations when assessing and treating combat-related PTSD than other types of trauma. Usually, a rape or accident victim isn’t trained to follow an escalation of force when presented with their triggers, and combat is not just one traumatic event but sustained exposure to multiple extreme situations from which there is no escape, often lasting a year in length. The diagnostic criteria is the same, but there are unique challenges to combat-related PTSD versus other types. Even though there is no separate diagnosis in the DSM-V, I believe they are differentiated in the ICD-10, and at the very least, according to VA standards and records. I forget which it is, I think the latter, but in the findings for my application for an increase in rating at the VA, they specified it with some code indicating that it was “PTSD as a result of warfare or armed conflict.” I’m also in school for Psychology. So, technically speaking, you are not wrong that there is no differentiation in diagnosis as per the DSM-V, but there is a difference in the way combat-related PTSD is approached than with other types of trauma.

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