Exploring Members of the UK Armed Forces Experience of Recovery after Treatment for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Hatton, Philippa (2016)

Background and Aims: The barriers to accessing mental health services for UK members of the Armed Forces (MAF) and veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been well documented (Iversen, Van & Hughes, 2011; Murphy, Hunt, Luzon & Greenburg, 2013). However less is known about their recovery following treatment and this study sought to explore veterans’ perspectives on what they felt had aided or impeded their recovery.\ud Methodology: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with nine male veterans who had recently completed treatment for PTSD at Combat Stress. The interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis.\ud Results: Four master themes emerged from this analysis and are discussed within a narrative account: “Relief of receiving a PTSD diagnosis”, “From layman’s knowledge to the technical ins and outs”, “Recovery: A changing relationship with self, the world and others” and “The road to more recovery and less suffering”.\ud Implications and conclusion: Most participants reported the concept of recovery felt inappropriate and preferred to consider their life post-treatment as a continual journey of coping with their PTSD. Nearly all participants found their diagnosis of PTSD useful, as it gave them a long sought for answer as to why they had been struggling and offered hope for treatment. All veterans identified meeting other veterans as integral to their coping with their problems, along with psychological techniques they learned to help manage their symptoms. The proactive approach taken by many participants suggests hegemonic masculinities could be a resource for coping even if they may make initially seeking help more challenging. This research echoes other literature by arguing for the complex nature of PTSD in veterans, due to stigma surrounding mental health difficulties within the armed forces and society as well as the identity shifts they have to navigate from MAF to veteran status.
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