While post-traumatic stress disorder has become a much-discussed affliction, a seemingly more prevalent problem is going largely overlooked: transition stress. Think of it as a clinical-sounding diagnosis for that sense of alienation many veterans feel after they leave the military.

Transition stress encompasses a number of issues facing transitioning military veterans, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other behavioral difficulties. They include a loss of purpose and sense of identity, difficulties securing employment, conflicted relationships with family and friends, and other general challenges adapting to post-military life.

That’s the theory behind Beyond war and PTSD: The crucial role of transition stress in the lives of military veterans, a recent essay by George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia Teachers College, and Meaghan Mobbs, a PhD student at the college and a former Army officer. They contend that though only a relatively small percentage of recent veterans develop PTSD — somewhere between 11% and 20% for Iraq and Afghanistan War-era veterans in a given year — the disproportionate attention given to PTSD overshadows a more pervasive problem among vets. (In the essay, Bonanno and Mobbs argue that the rate of PTSD among post-9/11 veterans varies dramatically, with studies “employing methodologically rigorous design elements” reporting rates under 10%.)

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