A New Study Tries to Discover What Causes Anger in Returning Soldiers


Feeling of hostility can make it tough for veterans to try and adjust to civilian life. Not sleeping, irritability, jumpiness, feeling on guard, hypervigilance, the inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities and suicidal thoughts and feelings are all post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related and appears to be associated with anger and hostility in U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers say.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. PTSD usually results from prolonged exposure to a traumatic event or series thereof and is characterized by long-lasting problems with many aspects of emotional and social functioning.

"Most returning veterans don't have PTSD or difficulty with anger and aggressiveness, but for the subset of veterans who do, this study may help identify related symptoms and other risk factors," claims Eric Elbogen, of the VISN 6 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center and the VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C.


Veterans who are returning from war often have feeling of hostility can make it very difficult for these vets to try and adjust to civilian life, the researchers noted. The new study will attempt to find risk factors that help returning vets.

Elbogen and colleagues performed this study by interviewing 676 veterans. They found that those who had difficulty controlling violent behavior were more likely than others to have witnessed family violence before they joined the military, fired a weapon during deployment, been deployed for more than one year or continued to experience hyperarousal symptoms.

The study also stated that it found that veterans with aggressive drives were more apt to report "hyperarousal" symptoms, childhood abuse, a family history of mental illness, or re-experiencing a traumatic event.

"As we learn more about risk factors and how to manage them, we'll be helping not only the veterans, but their families and society at large," Elbogen said. "Veterans with these adjustment problems should seek help through the Veterans Administration so we can best serve those who have served our country."



I was diagnosed with PTSD five years ago. What I've learned, is that the "hyper-arousal" features of the illness point to a physiological shift in brain chemistry. This shift creates an over-reactive "fight" or "flight". Some of us, when confronted with "danger" choose to "fight". Some of us "flee". Some of us "avoid". In order to survive, we need this mechanism. We need physiological arousal to deal with the "danger". Returning vets (given their exposure to "danger" over a long period of time), retain the physiological "readiness" to confront "a threat". I would suspect that "anger" is prominent in some returning soldiers’ lives, because their minds and bodies have not yet accepted that the battle is over; the primal instinct to survive is still in high gear; and "anger" prepares us too "fight". Hyper-arousal/anxiety and the grieving necessity of loss also play a role. To find balance again, returning warriors need patience (from within as well as externally) and need processes that allow their minds and bodies time to "calm" the inner storms of rage and return to "balance". DMG