Depression or Bipolar?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I served in the military for 7 years with two deployments to Afghanistan and two deployments to Egypt. When my first deployment ended 2008 (13 month tour), my best friend committed suicide and it hit me for a few months. After those few months I was then sent off to Egypt for two years. Upon arrival back to America from Jan 2011 – July 2011, I noticed I started drinking heavily but never caused any problems. In October of 2011 – October 2012, I did one last tour in Afghanistan. Since I have moved back home, for the first time in 7 years, I noticed I have been literally uncontrollable at times. I already received a Drunk in Public (which was dismissed) and just received a DUI. I feel like Ive been careless, depressed, crazy mood swings and all of the above. I don’t know why I feel this way and it is driving me crazy. I have lost contact with my best friends and even my father the past few months because I feel like I can’t trust anyone. How can I stop this over thinking? I feel like life overseas was so much easier and I was happy. Back home It is so stressful and I don’t know what to do anymore. Thank you for reading.

A. I had the good fortune to meet a high-ranking lieutenant colonel, who had served many tours in the Middle East. He explained that many soldiers found it stressful to be home. That may seem counterintuitive. One would imagine that it would be easier for soldiers to be home, to be in the presence of their friends and family, but that’s not necessarily the case. The lieutenant explained that when soldiers were stationed with the military, they had a definitive job. Virtually every moment of their day was structured. After returning home, that structure was gone. There was no longer a definitive role for them. For many soldiers, they were much happier when their day was structured and they had a definitive role to fulfill.

Perhaps part of your struggle may be lack of structure. The lieutenant also explained how difficult it was to interact with others in the way that he had prior to his being deployed. He was no longer sure how to behave.

Many soldiers, he also explained, never felt more alive than when they were fighting in war. That feeling was difficult to match or recapture upon their return.

You feel out of control and your behavior has led to trouble with the law. I’m not certain what disorder you may have. I would recommend being evaluated by a mental health professional. Many soldiers are struggling with similar issues and have been helped by mental health professionals. Check with your local veterans hospital, your insurance company or local community mental health center about what services are available to you. The lieutenant I spoke about above was a social worker and was in the process of setting up a private practice to focus his work on individuals struggling with the same problems you have described. Consider working with a therapist who specializes in the problems of working with soldiers returning from war.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Mar 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Depression or Bipolar?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/03/20/depression-or-bipolar-4/

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