WSJ: Notable & Quotable: Reporter Leo Shane III In Stars And Stripes, Feb. 7

When renowned sniper Chris Kyle was killed by a fellow veteran on Saturday, the news brought familiar headlines of the instability of returning warfighters and the dangers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But health experts say that's more Hollywood stereotype than reality, and that blaming veterans' violence on their PTSD makes as much sense as blaming it on their broken leg.

"There is zero linkage between PTSD and criminal behavior," said Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist and founder of the veterans charity "Give an Hour."

"We see veterans with PTSD who can become overwhelmed by a situation and may look to push back or push away. But that's not the same thing as violent and aggressive behavior towards others."

Researchers have established a link between traumatic stress disorders and a series of destructive behaviors: drug and alcohol abuse, self-cutting, suicide.

But the link between the disorder and violence toward others is much murkier, often connected only through secondary effects or compounding illnesses.

Vah Dahlen and PTSD sufferers are more likely to withdraw from human interaction than strike out at strangers. She sees a bigger social danger in veterans who ignore or deny readjustment issues than those who seek treatment for mental illnesses.

"The ones who decide to 'white-knuckle it', whether because of denial or fear, they don't talk to their families, they don't seek help, and things get worse," she said. "When they don't acknowledge one problem, it can lead to more conditions later on."

But news reports and public fear about "crazy war veterans" can dissuade veterans from seeking help, she said. Veterans' advocates and VA officials have lamented that for years.