According to a 2018 report from the Department of Defense, nearly half (45.6 percent) of active-duty members are 25 years old or younger, followed by 26 to 30 years (21.1 percent) [1]. This means that the vast majority of active service members enter the military at a fairly young age. For some, it’s all they know, which can make the transition to civilian life overwhelming. If you are approaching the end of your military career or have recently left the service, you may be experiencing a mixture of feelings — excitement, sadness and fear, and the list goes on.

Here’s what you can expect during the transition to civilian life, as well as the steps to take when aiming to ease symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.

Learn more about mental health treatment and how it transforms lives.

Is It Time to Hang Up Your Uniform? Here’s What to Expect

When leaving the military, service members often express feelings of uneasiness. They must create a new identity — one that is not solely based on military culture. Leaving the familiarity of military life and that culture, in terms of traditions, values, expectations, and language, can be challenging.

Separating yourself from the military differs from trading one civilian career for another. This step can affect every aspect of your life. Whether you’re mourning the “loss” of your military family or are overwhelmed by the choices ahead, it’s important to know that what you’re feeling is normal. It’s important to talk about these feelings so that you can seek the support you need to support your mental health.

Research shows that veterans face a wide range of potential problems, which are often tied to their time in the service. This includes drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, trouble finding employment, and even jail time [2]. There is also a strong link between veterans and PTSD, which some studies showing rates to be as high as 20 to 30 percent among both deployed and non-deployed veterans [3]. Yet sadly, many do not seek veteran therapy.

Read about veterans in recovery, particularly those suffering from PTSD.

Areas of Difficulty Among Veterans

There are many variables to consider when readjusting to civilian life. For example, what level of support do you have outside of the military? What skills do you have when seeking employment? Are you struggling with a mental health disorder that developed while in the military?

According to Pew Research Center, most veterans say that the military prepared them for active duty. However, only around half say they were prepared for the transition to civilian life. Experiencing trauma while in the military significantly affected how prepared veterans felt, and sadly, one in five veterans struggle with substance abuse after leaving the military [4].

  • Relating to people outside of the military can be hard. What you have experienced in the military is unique, and something that many civilians are not aware of. This can make it tough to reconnect with family and friends, especially if you’re struggling to re-establish a role.
  • Preparing to enter the civilian workforce. You may have never looked for a job outside of the military before, which may require skills you’re not familiar with. For example, you may have never created a resume. Will you need to go to school to seek the career you want? Although this can be intimidating, there are many skills you will have learned in the military that will apply to the workforce.
  • Returning to work outside of the military. If you were deployed with the National Guard, you may need to return to a job you previously had, which can present unique challenges — especially if you are struggling to adjust. From social changes to skill development, this transition period can create a range of emotions.
  • Where to live. Will you be returning home to family, and if so, what does that look like for you? Do you plan on buying or renting a home? You may qualify for a home loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is something to consider during this process [5].

It is important to prepare for this transition, especially if you thrive on structure. The military provides individuals with structure, as well as a chain of command, which isn’t the case outside of the service. You may be required to adjust to life and environment with more ambiguity. If you are struggling with this step, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

Help Is Available

There are several transition assistance programs and veteran therapy options available for veterans, as well as a plethora of resources.

One key program is the Transition Assistance Program, offered by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you are struggling with addiction or symptoms of diminishing mental health, it’s imperative that you seek help as soon as possible. Transformations Treatment Center offers individualized, comprehensive treatment plans, as well as programs and resources specifically for veterans.

To find out more, please contact us today!


  1. Department of Defense. 2018 Demographics. Retrieved from
  2. Taylor, S. et al. Veterans’ Transition Out of the Military and Knowledge of Mental Health Disorders. Retrieved from
  3. Reisman, M. PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s Next. Retrieved from
  4. Pew Research Center. Readjusting to civilian life. Retrieved from
  5. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Employment Toolkit. Retrieved from