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PTSD – The Greatest Challenge for So Many of Our Veterans Day Heroes

PTSD – The Greatest Challenge for So Many of Our Veterans Day Heroes
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In Honor of Veterans Day We are Rerunning This Article


Post-Traumatic-Stress-Syndrome or PTSD affects our Veterans in ways we are just now learning to appreciate and understand.  Here’s how it affects our generation from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Post-traumatic-stress-syndrome is a psychological condition that affects people who have been subjected to traumatic events.  These events can vary and it’s estimated that 60% or women and 50% of men will experience a traumatic event in their lifetimes.

Many of these people have experienced trauma as a result of serving in the U.S. armed services, and a good number don’t begin to show symptoms until a year has passed. The age of these veterans range from Vietnam Vets in their 60’s to various Iraqi war and Afghanistan Vets from their late 30’s to 50’s.

In World War II, PTSD was sometimes referred to as “Shell-shock,” and was rarely treated let alone considered to be psychological disorder. It wasn’t until 1980 that PTSD was recognized as a disorder with specific symptoms that could be reliably diagnosed and was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The Challenge for Many Veterans

Many veterans suffering from PTSD don’t even know they have the condition. In fact statistics indicate that 50% of veterans are unaware they are suffering from a traumatic disorder.  Some get treatment but it’s often short-term and many simply tolerate the disorder.  Others get treatment and either come to terms with their challenges or discontinue treatment.

Suicide and PTSD

An alarming statistic is related to the fact that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.  Most due to PTSD.  This figure is actually understated given that it’s based on data from only 21 states in the United States.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of post-traumatic-stress- syndrome are many and varied. They can be symptomatic of other stress disorders or conditions, but if a traumatic event is known there’s a possibility it’s the root-cause of the symptoms.

According to the Veterans Administration, some of the indicators of PTSD are:

  • You may have nightmares.
  • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
    • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
    • You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
    • If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
    • You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
  • The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
  • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
  • You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
    • You may have a hard time sleeping.
    • You may have trouble concentrating.
    • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
    • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

Symptoms can also come and go as other stressful events trigger the condition or unleash it for the first time.

PTSD is Surprisingly Common, Especially with Veterans

There are statistics ranging from Vietnam to recent conflicts including Desert Storm, Desert Shield and the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are some facts from the VA:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. While we want to believe that our men and women in uniform suffering from PTSD are reacting to their noble service, there’s a dark-side to PTSD known as MST. MST is “Military Sex Trauma” and the statistics are troubling:
  • The Tragedy of MST
    • 23 out of 100 women (or 23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
    • 55 out of 100 women (or 55%) and 38 out of 100 men (or 38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military
    • This tends to be the most unreported form of PTSD and the VA has marginal records of the condition.

Treatment for PTSD

Common forms of treatment including medications for anxiety, depression and other symptoms associated with PTSD from difficulty sleeping to physiological issues. Individual counseling usually accompanies any other form of treatment along with regular assessments to measure progress or progression.

Where to find help

There are also resources online that can provide information, self-assessments, and resources for someone suffering from PTSD:

    • Many veterans turn to the Veterans Administration for treatment of PTSD, but private hospitals can also provide treatment services. Insurance covers PTSD like any other medical condition.
    • The duration and frequency of the treatment varies depending on the individual and the set of symptoms they present.
    • Group therapy is also a common form of treatment to encourage individuals afflicted with PTSD to share their experiences and hopefully learn to appreciate that they are not alone and can move past the experience.
    • Any treatment for PTSD requires a diagnosis by a medical professional. There are questionnaires that someone can take online that may indicate the possibility, but treatment is rarely offered without a medical diagnosis.
    • There are many other online resources that can be found with a search for “PTSD Veterans
  • Veterans Crisis Line
  • Veterans Administration
  • Make the Connection

If you or someone you know has symptoms of PTSD, these are good places to start.  The best step is to make an appointment with a professional to assess the presence or PTSD, and the degree or percentage of PTSD for a proper course of treatment.

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