Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after a person has been through an intense, frightening event, such as exposure to combat. Not everyone who experiences war gets PTSD, and it is unclear why some do and others do not. Circumstances that increase your chances of getting PTSD include how intense the event was, how long it lasted, how close to it you were, how much you felt in control, if you were injured, if you lost someone close to you, and how much help and support you got afterwards.
Symptoms of PTSD
Usually someone who has PTSD shows symptoms early on, but in some people, they develop over time. These symptoms break down into four categories: reliving, avoidance, negative changes, and hyper arousal.
In reliving the event, you might have flashback episodes or upsetting memories that disturb your day-to-day activities. You may have recurrent nightmares. Certain situations that remind you of the event may evoke uncomfortable reactions.
In avoidance, you avoid places, people or thoughts that trigger memories of the event. You might feel numb, detached, unable to care about anything, uninterested in normal activities, or like you have no future.
In negative changes of beliefs and feelings, your attitude towards yourself and others changes. Activities you used to enjoy no longer interest you, and you often will feel fear, guilt, or shame.
In feeling keyed-up or hyper arousal, you are unable to concentrate, easily startled, irritable, subject to bursts of anger, have trouble sleeping, and continually scan basic situations for signs of danger.
Risks of PTSD of Those Serving in Afghanistan and Iran
Former military personnel were often in harm’s way, might have seen others hurt or killed, and may have had to wound or kill others. They were away from home for long periods of time and had to remain constantly on alert. They might have been victims of military sexual trauma. All of these factors make them susceptible to PTSD.
Other factors that make service personnel particularly susceptible include prolonged deployment time, physical injury, low rank, low level of schooling, low morale, being unmarried, and having family problems. In particular, severe combat stressors, such as knowing someone killed or seriously wounded, seeing dead bodies, being shot at, being attacked or ambushed, or receiving rocket or mortar fire increase the amount of problems with PTSD.
Help for Veterans With PTSD
If you completed active service in one of the branches of the armed forces and you were not dishonorably discharged or you were deployed to a combat zone as a member of the National Guard or a reservist, you should be eligible for VA services. PTSD is treatable, and VA medical centers, Vet Centers, and community-based outpatient clinics offer treatment. Veteran’s Affairs has special PTSD programs and clinics. If you are diagnosed with PTSD, treatments include classes on dealing with PTSD symptoms, medication, and one-on-one, group, and family counseling sessions.
PTSD and the Community
PTSD can have a harmful effect on family life. Marital problems, family violence, and children with behavioral problems are common in families where one member has PTSD. Because veterans cannot easily overcome the effects of the trauma, family members may feel discouraged, hurt, and alienated. It is imperative that families seek counseling together. An ex-service person’s return to a civilian job may be easy or traumatic depending on the symptoms of PTSD, but there is usually an adjustment period.
If you feel your PTSD due to military service is severe and you are entitled to disability compensation, contact the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration for details on applying.
This article was provided by Sandy Wallace, aspiring lawyer with an interest in public health. If you are suffering from PTSD, Sandy recommends seeking psychological, medical, and depending on your situation, legal counsel.