Do militaries get depressed after leaving service?


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Page last updated: 17/05/2022

Do militaries get depressed after leaving service?

This article will discuss why people may experience depression after they leave the military. Aside from that, the article will explain what they can do about it, and what are ways their family can help.

Do militaries get depressed after leaving service? 

Yes, it is common for militaries to get depressed after leaving service. This can happen due to the effort they need to put on to readjust to life as a civilian. To this, it was created the name Post-military depression.

When they go back home, they can often feel stressed, and this stress can be a trigger for many military veterans. They may also have trouble reintegrating into their family. They spent so much time away, that it can be hard for them to feel like they fit in.

Aside from that, they may be overwhelmed with the concern of providing for their family, and as they are home, and have a lot more free time, they can begin to emotionally process what they went through while they were serving in the military.

This can bring up some memories they may have pushed under the carpet when they were serving. Adding on to the already huge load of stress they are being put through. Aside from that, they may feel without purpose and a sense of routine since they left the military.

This can affect their self-esteem and their sense of self-worth, harming their mental health. When a veteran is experiencing depression, some signs will show to their family and friends how they feel.

This makes it easier for them to realize that something is wrong since people from the military have the habit of pushing things down, and not discussing their emotions, which can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may become anxious, sad, or show a certain level of emotional numbness.

When veterans are depressed, they can also show that they are feeling hopeless, and become more irritable. In the same way as with other depressive episodes, they can lose interest in activities and feel more tired. 

People close to them may notice that their eating and sleeping patterns have changed, and they are having a hard time relaxing. Some of them may even start to show curiosity, or talk about death, and have suicidal thoughts.

While it is important to know the symptoms that veterans can show when they are depressed, know that a person won’t necessarily experience all of them and that their intensity of them can change from one person to the next. 

Let’s discuss what veterans can do when they come back home and are feeling depressed, and what are ways their loved ones can help.

Do militaries get depressed after leaving service?

How can vets cope with depression after leaving the military? 

After you leave the military so much of your life has changed that it may seem hard to adjust back home. The first thing that you may want to do is accept that this is a stressful situation. Having this in mind will allow you to feel and express your emotions.

Holding it back may only make it worse. Aside from that, you may want to try and keep some sense of routine. If you worked out in the military, keeping on doing it can help you maintain some sense of purpose and accomplishment. 

Since the military had such a strict schedule, you may also want to keep some sense of routine in your life to help you adjust better.

Aside from that, it may be important to open yourself up to new activities. Discovering what you want to do now, and allowing yourself to explore, can be extremely helpful in maintaining your mental health.

Finally, if you feel you are experiencing depression, you must look for professional help. And by that, we are talking about a therapist, and sometimes even a psychiatrist. The therapist will help you get a better handle on your emotions, and may even help you understand where your depression is coming from.

As for the psychiatrist, they may help you get the right medication depending on how you are feeling. Those will help reduce the intensity of your symptoms of depression. 

What are ways the family can help? 

Having a military back at home is quite an adjustment for both sides. They spend so much time away, and coming back can take some getting used to. But if you notice they aren’t feeling well, there are some ways you can help.

The most important thing to do is talk to them. Plan to have an open and honest conversation in which you hear what they have to say. Be empathetic about how he feels, and let them know you are there for them. 

If they haven’t looked for treatment, you may want to suggest it to them, and even offer to help them look for it. For that, you may want to look for the possibilities of treatment that are available in your town. Bringing it to them can make it easier for them to be open to the possibility.

But you should also have in mind that while you care for them, you should also care for yourself. Having a family member go through depression is extremely challenging, so keep yourself healthy, and that includes your mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Do militaries get depressed after leaving service? 

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that is a part of anxiety disorders. It is a reaction of the person to a traumatic experience. When they go through something that led to a huge trauma, they might not handle it so well. 

So every time a similar situation presents itself, the person may react with a crisis similar to the one people get when they have panic attacks. They can also become violent, and more irritable.

People improve from PTSD with a combination of therapy, to understand the trauma, and what triggers PTSD, and psychiatrist, which through medication will help find some balance in the person’s mood and behaviors.

What are the 5 stages of PTSD? 

PTSD usually happens in 5 stages. In the first one, the stage of impact, the person has just faced a traumatic situation. It is that moment when they are trying to get a grip on what has just happened.

After that, they experience the phase of denial. This phase may not happen to everyone, but it is one in which the person will deny the traumatic experience that happened. They can start to avoid situations or emotions that may trigger those back them.

After that, it is the rescue stage in which the person will begin to deal with what has been. It is in this phase that people usually visit the site in which their trauma happened as a way to deal with what has happened.

This may be an intense phase. People may have flashbacks and even dreams about what happened. And even though it can be hurtful, it is a sign that they are handling their emotions. In the next phase, known as the short-term recovery, the person starts to feel better in their normal life.

They may have a new understanding of the traumatic situation they went through. And after that, they enter into the long-term recovery phase in which they have created coping strategies to deal with the feeling that may be triggered by the trauma, and it doesn’t hurt them as badly.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder? 

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental illness that affects how you perceive yourself and others. It can impair your relationships and how you behave in the world. This condition causes people to become unstable.

They can experience intense fear of abandonment. Although they have trouble being alone, they can constantly push people away because of how aggressive and irritable they can be. They usually have a distorted sense of themselves, and may even experience moments of paranoia, or in which they lose touch with reality.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to take on risky behaviors. They can start to gamble, have risky sexual experiences, or may abuse the use of alcohol or drugs. They can also quit their job from one moment to the next.

When they have this condition, people may also have other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It can also lead them to consider suicide. To treat it, it is important that the person is on medication, and do that joined by therapy.

What does it mean to be hypervigilant? 

Being hypervigilant means that you are extremely aware of everything that is going around you. It is not a mental health condition, but it is a symptom of many mental illnesses. 

It can be quite common in people with PTSD, and in people that experience paranoia. And it causes the person to fixate on things that are threats, or even potential threats.

A hypervigilant person may have a higher reflex level, their heartbeat can be stronger, and their blood pressure will be higher. Being hypervigilant means that the person is overstimulated and that their pupils might be dilated. It can make it harder for the person to relax, or even to sleep. Having a huge toll on the person’s quality of life.

The treatment for hypervigilance goes through therapy and medication. But having a breathing exercise in hand for when you are too agitated, or even exercising so you can direct your energy to that, are great ways to cope with hypervigilance daily.

Does depression have a cure?

No, depression doesn’t have a cure. What is said by mental health professionals is that depression goes into remission. That is because depression is often related to a genetic disposition, and those can’t be changed even through treatment. 

And even though thinking of becoming depressed again can be extremely discouraging for people that are just getting better, keep in mind that when you improve your symptoms, you will be able to feel joy, and be interested in things again. 

Knowing that depression doesn’t have a cure may be important so you can care for your mental health the same way you just did, so you can maybe prevent yourself from getting depressed again.


This article discussed why veterans can become depressed after leaving military work. It also explained are ways that they can cope with depression, and how their loved ones can help in this process.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.


Inoue C, Shawler E, Jordan CH, Jackson CA. Veteran and Military Mental Health Issues. 2021 May 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 34283458.

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