As has been widely documented across successive conflicts combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often has dire long-term consequences upon interpersonal relationships. Rates of divorce and separation among combat veterans tend to exceed those prevalent within the general population.
By Leigh Cuen
It was clear from our very first date that my boyfriend Omri probably has post-traumatic stress disorder.
We were at a jazz club in Jerusalem. I’m not sure what the sound was — a car backfiring, a cat knocking over trash can, a wedding party firing celebratory shots into the air. But whatever it was, the sound caused Omri to jump in his seat and tremble. He gazed up at me, his eyes wet, his pupils swollen like black olives. The noise clearly carried a different meaning for him, one I didn’t understand. He slowly took another puff of his cigarette, careful to steady his shaking hands.
I later learned that Omri served as a sergeant major during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation that led to intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence from 2000 to 2005. “Every day, we started cursing at two, shooting rubber bullets by four, and live ammunition by six,” he said. The first time he shot a man dead, Omri told me, he cried.
To be clear, my boyfriend was never formally diagnosed with PTSD, which is the case for most military men I know: They’ve never sought professional help or a formal diagnosis, even though they report experiencing symptoms that are similar to those associated with PTSD, such as panic attacks, flashbacks and difficulty relating to loved ones.
America’s military systems actively discourages people from getting diagnosed and seeking treatment for PTSD because of the costs. According to reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the U.S. military “pressured psychologists not to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to free the Army from providing long-term, expensive care for soldiers.”