Special Operations Forces & Incidence of PTSD Symptoms

Research Paper Title

Special Operations Forces and Incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms.


To determine the rates of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) positive symptom scores in Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel, an anonymous survey of SOF was employed, incorporating the PTSD Checklist (PCL-M) with both demographic and deployment data. Results indicate that all SOF units studied scored above the accepted cut-offs for PTSD positive screening.

  1. When total symptom severity score exceeded established cutoff points and were combined with criteria for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition 4 (DSM-IV) diagnosis of PTSD; and
  2. Approximately 16-20% of respondents met scoring threshold for positive screening, almost double those of conventional Army units.

Collectively, Special Forces (SF) Soldiers and SOF combat-arms Soldiers had significantly higher PLC-M scores than their non-combat-arms SOF counterparts. SOF Soldiers with three or more deployments to Afghanistan had significantly higher PCL-M scores. Considering the evidence suggesting that SOF Soldiers are hyper-resilient to stress, these results should drive further research schemata and challenge clinical assumptions of PTSD within Special Operations.


Hing, M., Cabrera, J., Barstow, C. & Forsten, R. (2012) Special Operations Forces and Incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Journal of Special Operations Medicine. 12(3), pp.23-35.


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