Help with PTSD
Some veterans struggle with the memories of their combat experiences and their reactions to it. This can begin to cause problems in relationships with family or friends, or troubles at work or with finances. Often sleep can be very disrupted, though there is help available to deal with this effectively. This reaction can last for days or weeks and are a normal response to combat experiences.
For those who do not access treatment early, the condition may become a prolonged combat stress reaction, which is more commonly known as posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Always feeling ‘on guard’ and finding it difficult to relax. Feeling anxious, unable to sleep or concentrate and getting angry easily. It may also include excessive concerns about your safety or the safety of a loved one. This anxiety may make sleeping a challenge with makes concentration difficult which together builds to becoming easily irritated. The majority of veterans do not develop PTSD, but between 27-30 percent will have PTSD for some period of their life. This has been observed in veterans from World War II through to more recent conflicts via Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in United Nations peacekeeping forces.
What causes combat stress reactions or PTSD?
Why some people have PTSD and others do not is not entirely understood, though what is known is that it bears no relation to the strength or character of the person suffering. Many brave or strong people suffer with PTSD symptoms after experiencing trauma.
Three indicators are greater exposure to life threatening situations, experiencing traumatic events in the past and not having supportive people in easy reach.
Treatment for PTSD
Treatment for PTSD involves regular conversations with a trained counsellor to learn more about what PTSD is, what its affects are and how you can make gradual changes to improve things. Sometimes, medications can help for a while. This treatment can be received via veteran organisations or through general mental health services. For the most severe cases of PTSD, a residential treatment programme is often recommended.
Whatever the treatment, the first step will be an assessment and then with a counsellor, goals are set to make the changes the veteran wants to see. Treatment also includes learning about what PTSD is and how it affects individuals and those close to them.
Over time, coping skills will become more easily incorporated into daily life so that physical tension is lower, communication with family and friends is better and anger and conflict become a thing of the past. Sometimes group therapies are helpful, to learn from the experience of other veterans and to offer support.
Taking medication can help reduce the anxiety, depression, irritability, or insomnia often associated with PTSD and make it easier to participate in counselling. This is usually not a long-term solution.
Sharing experiences, what happened and how the feelings about it, can give the opportunity to look at the situation again. Talking with others who have been in a similar situation makes what can be a painful situation for some, more bearable, particularly over time.
Common symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD varies from mild and brief to severe and chronic. These reactions can cause problems in adjusting to the transition back to civilian life.
There are three symptoms of PTSD. These are commonly experienced by most people immediately following a traumatic experience, but if these symptoms persist months after the event, they may indicate PTSD.
Veterans continue to think about combat or feel as if they are still in combat. This can include nightmares about events witnessed or actual combat situations. At times, they may feel as though they are actually back in the war zone.
Images of war zones can flash into their minds making it difficult to think or concentrate. These images may sometimes be “triggered” by sights, sounds or smells that are a reminder of the combat experience.
Avoidance and numbing of emotion
This means refusing to discuss the traumatic event, feeling detached from others, or feeling emotionally shut down. Everyone has a choice about how much they will discuss about a traumatic event, but individuals with combat stress reactions or PTSD often go to great lengths to prevent memories or discussions about their past experiences.
This can involve emotional or physical distancing from family and friends. Perhaps getting angry when asked to talk about your feelings or behaviour. It is not unusual for people to use alcohol, prescription and drugs to avoid the thoughts and emotions.