Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—Does It Increase the Likelihood of Criminal Behavior?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—Does It Increase the Likelihood of Criminal Behavior?

In light of frequent reports of combat veterans being arrested and charged with all types of serious crime, from drug offenses to homicide, psychologists and other mental health professionals have taken a closer look at the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, including the inclination of PTSD victims to engage in criminal behavior. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 10 percent of all state prison inmates are service veterans, and more than half of them served during wartime. In addition, nearly 60% of those veterans in prison were convicted of a violent offense.

While most mental health professionals readily acknowledge that PTSD can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, and that stressed and anxious persons tend not to fully evaluate all their options before taking action, there is no consensus that PTSD increases the likelihood of criminal behavior. Authorities also acknowledge that PTSD can increase hostility and anger, as well as diminish self-control.

Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the propensity of PTSD victims to engage in criminal acts, with conflicting results. Researchers found that PTSD sufferers are more inclined to engage in domestic violence, and to get involved in altercations if they pursue a college degree. But studies also indicated that the “impulsive aggression” typically associated with acts of violence was far more prevalent in veterans without PTSD than those who had been diagnosed with the condition.

In many veterans, PTSD is associated with a traumatic brain injury. Medical professionals remain uncertain about the impact of TBI on post-traumatic stress disorder. A study conducted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs found that PTSD was more pronounced in soldiers with mild head injuries than in solders with serious brain trauma.

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