U.S. soldiers in Vietnam got letters from home, but, by the time they arrived at the front line, the news -- good or bad -- had "softened up," Arnold said. Today's troops get news from home -- not all of it good -- instantaneously via e-mail and cell phone.
"This can add to the stress level," Arnold said. "[Soldiers] are helpless to do anything. If you call me and tell me there's a major problem, I'm not concentrating on my job."
The instantaneous nature of modern life also may hamper people's problem-solving skills as well, Arnold said. "Everything comes so easy and instantaneous to them, they're used to getting everything they want when they want it and I think that's also an issue," he said. "They don't know how to struggle and suffer and work through issues."
This is especially true when trying to work out marriages, he said.
Add to this the fact that many U.S. troops are serving three or four or more tours of duty in combat zones, largely because the nation now has an all-volunteer Army. There aren't enough shoulders to take on this great a burden, Arnold said.
"We've downsized our military, causing people to be deployed much more than they should be," he said.
"People did get deployed multiple times to Vietnam but I don't think it was like this. I think that has contributed as well [to high levels of PTSD]," said Keith Young, vice chairman for research at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station, who also works with the VA Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans.
More tours of duty mean more chances for PTSD to develop.
"What we've learned is that people still continue to develop PTSD in each deployment, so it's an additive effect," Young explained.
Once people show signs of severe PTSD, Young said, they usu
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