Some veterans called in sick in the days afterward, while one, an alcoholic struggling to stay sober, resumed drinking. Others had flashbacks of the gore of war, with one so consumed by television coverage of the Marathon blasts and the ensuing manhunt that she had to be hospitalized. Another veteran, after learning of all the severed limbs on Boylston Street, ruminated about a fellow soldier who had been torn apart in battle.
In the days after the bombings, which brought home a horror that many of them faced abroad, some veterans began to experience again the trauma they had spent years struggling to overcome.
A study released Friday of Boston-area military veterans previously diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder found that 38 percent of those surveyed said they experienced emotional distress as a result of the bombings and the lockdown during the search for the suspects. Of those, a majority told researchers that they experienced unwanted memories of their own trauma.
“These veterans are among the unrecognized victims of the terrorist attacks, those whose injuries are hidden,” said Mark Miller, associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, which will appear in the December issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
He said it is the first study to be published about the mental health effects of the bombings on Boston-area residents. While a relatively small number of veterans were surveyed, Miller said, his paper is among only a few to document the effect of traumatic events on people with preexisting PTSD.
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