Honoring Our Veterans Who Have PTSD
Many veterans return with PTSD and here are some facts you should know.
Posted Nov 08, 2018
It’s now a well-known fact that more U.S. veterans die from suicide than in combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent in many sectors of the population, but we most often hear it talked about when it comes to veterans.
After being exposed to traumatic events such as war, there are two typical responses to save oneself from the situation—fight or flight and immobilization. In fight or flight, typically the central nervous system becomes vamped up, and heart rate and blood pressure increase. It’s a temporary situation. When the danger passes, the central nervous system returns to normal. The second response, immobilization, is longer lasting—the body becomes stuck as a result of long-lasting stressors and is unable to return to normal functioning. The latter incidence is what happens during PTSD episodes.
Not all vets succumb to PTSD, but those who do are left with lifelong challenges. Whether you believe in war or not, the issue of PTSD among vets is a real one. The degree of PTSD among veterans varies and often depends on where the person was stationed. While the Department of Veterans Affairs claims that only 31 percent of vets suffer from PTSD, this seems rather low. There might be many other cases that remain undocumented, so the percentage could be much higher.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after any traumatic event. For the most part, those with the condition have been involved in situations where they felt as if their lives were in danger. After the experience, they may be fearful, angry, and/or confused because they’ve witnessed or endured horrible things. Subsequently, they may feel a loss of control regarding their situations. It’s common that future events can result in a retriggering or a reliving of their lived traumas. This retriggering can be brought on by sounds, smells, or sights that remind them of the initial occurrences.
When in direct contact with vets suffering from PTSD, one might notice that they seem hyperaroused, are subject to intrusive thoughts, experience flashbacks, have nightmares, and are overwhelmed with negativity. Someone with PTSD might have difficulty with decision-making, communication, and the ability to trust others, which can present challenges when it comes to forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships.
As a baby boomer, I’ve known a few friends who suffered from PTSD and who were easily triggered by events in their lives. Sometimes just the thought of Veterans Day can be a triggering event, or even the whirring sounds of helicopters and/or hearing about conflicts in the news.
The length of time an individual experiences PTSD varies from person to person and is dependent on personality, genetics, and the particular trauma involved. As with most mental illnesses, there’s no cure for PTSD, but it can be managed with psychotherapy and medications. Some studies say that it doesn’t last forever, while others claim that it’s a lifelong condition. If the person has had multiple traumas, there’s less of a chance that it will go away. It also depends on someone’s individual coping skills.
If you or someone you know is experiencing post-
combat PTSD, here are some important things to consider:
· Try to avoid emotional triggers that can set off an episode.
· Engage in daily exercise. This is important because it burns off the adrenaline that accompanies PTSD symptoms and also helps to increase endorphins.
· Mindfulness/breathing exercises are especially useful—that is, where someone slows down and focuses on every breath and movement. Also, sometimes tapping someone’s arms brings the person back into the present moment.
· Refrain from social isolation. Form connections with positive, trusted individuals.
· Remember that taking care of both the body and mind is essential, especially through techniques such as meditation, yoga, and massage.
· Eat a healthy diet that includes Omega-3s, which help foster emotional health.
· Get adequate sleep—aim for seven to eight hours each night.