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Study Probes Causes of Anger in Returning U.S. Soldiers

PTSD, combat experience and family history can all play roles, study finds

TUESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep problems, irritability, concentration problems, jumpiness and feeling constantly "on guard" are among the hyperarousal symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with anger and hostility in U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers say.

"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," Eric Elbogen, of the VISN 6 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center and the VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in an American Psychiatric Association news release.

Feeling of hostility can make it tough for veterans to try and adjust to civilian life, the researchers note. The new study points to risk factors that boost the odds that a veteran will be burdened with these emotions upon his or her return home.

Elbogen and colleagues interviewed 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 found that veterans with aggressive urges were more likely than others to report "hyperarousal" symptoms, childhood abuse, a family history of mental illness, or re-experiencing a traumatic event.

Factors associated with having difficulty managing anger included being married, having a parent with a criminal history, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and hyperarousal symptoms, the researchers found.

The study was published in the June 15 online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"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."

More information

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers resources for veterans and families on managing stress and recovering from trauma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, June 15, 2010

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