Video on Veteran PTSD

Hey everyone! This is a follow up posts on PTSD. If you haven’t read the first post of PTSD or the one on Veteran PTSD go check them out. In order to further help explain what our veterans go through with PTSD here is a short video from the Veterans Affairs:

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Helping those who fight for you

“Freedom isn’t free.” This is one of the truest clichés of all time, yet why do we so quickly ignore or forget the weight it holds? The irony is that we have the freedom to forget about our soldiers because they sacrifice it all to give us that opportunity. While I know war can be a polarizing political issue, one thing that shouldn’t be is the way we treat our soldiers. Despite your views those who have served deserve better treatment than they get. While this could open a whole discussion into the broken system of the Veteran Affairs, I want to focus in on the main mental health issue soldiers fall prey to, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reason I want to pick them out specifically is because while their PTSD is not different from civilian PTSD, but because they are not given help from the Veterans Administration along with the fact that they are greatly misunderstood.

PTSD is hard to deal with for veterans and their loved ones. Where many wounds on the battlefield are physically received, PTSD is one that is unseen. Many veterans will come home and think they are fine and others will believe it, then PTSD will slowly become present. Other times veterans can come back and seem fine to the world but they know something is off, whether or not they know its PTSD is the hard part. The mental wound of PTSD is hard because it can misdiagnosed or ignored.

In order to better understand PTSD with veterans let’s look at some statistics from the Veterans Affairs. *A quick disclaimer, while the VA has been treating our veterans in an atrocious manner their statistics are still valid and credible.*:

  • The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
    • 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.
  • In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% and that’s only the reported and diagnosed cases.

These statistics are staggering and heartbreaking. The thing is that this is not an issue that is just a harmless one that affects one person. Suicide rates from veterans are on the rise. Marriages and families are falling apart. That is why as a community we need to raise awareness and help our veterans. That starts with education on PTSD and how to spot it. Check out my previous blog post, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, for symptoms and treatments.

Outside of getting professional help for you or a loved one there are a few more things you can do. If you are experiencing a crisis feel free to call the confidential and toll-free hotline: Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or Text to 838255. There is will be support 24/7 all year long. If you are not experiencing a crisis but would like to talk to someone with shared experience check out the site Make the Connection. Make the Connection is a website that looks to find and match veterans together to talk. You can find fellow veterans based on gender, war/era, branch, and combat.

Overall PTSD is a hard issue to tackle. It is unseen, stigmatized, and an issue that is plagued with miss information. If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD make sure to tell someone and get professional help. Healing is possible you only need to take a step in the right direction.

~Be mindful of the mind

Myths about PTSD

Hey everyone! I hope you learned something form my post on PTSD. As I was learning more about it I found this great Myths and Facts section about PTSD on PsychCentral by Sara Staggs (LICSW, MSW, MPH) and I wanted to share it. Here is what I found:

EXPOSURE MYTHS:

  • MYTH: Everyone who experiences a life-threatening even will develop PTSD.
    • FALSE. Most people who experience a qualifying event will not get PTSD and will gradually/naturally see a decrease in symptoms.
  • MYTH: People who are weak get PTSD.
    • FALSE: There are so many factors involving PTSD and none of it is personal strength. The factors can range from the triggering, gender, how one is raised, to their social support but personal strength is not one of them.

 

SYMPTOMS AND COPING MYTHS:

  • MYTH: After some time I should be alright from my traumatic experience.
    • FALSE: Sometimes you can have forgot about a traumatic experiencing and something can trigger and bring up the memory.
  • MYTH: I can’t seek any healing because the trauma I experienced happened too long ago.
    • FALSE: It is never too late to seek help. While it is great to get help and talk with people about your experience, you can still receive help many years after the trauma.
  • MYTH: I should be able to handle this myself.
    • FALSE: If you broke you are you wouldn’t sit around the house waiting for it to heal on its home, you would go to a doctor. The same way you would go to a doctor, seeking help is always beneficial. Statistically the group that has the hardest time seeking help is men.

 

PTSD THERAPY MYTHS:

  • MYTH: Once I get it done with and talk about this trauma I will be fine.
    • FALSE: While discussing the trauma helps it is not the entire solution. Seeking help can range anywhere from a few sessions to a year or more. The goal is not to rush through therapy but to get the help you need to be free of PTSD.
  • MYTH: If I can’t remember the abuse, I won’t be able to process and heal from the trauma.
    • FALSE: While memory can help process trauma it is not the only way. There are new forms of therapy that focus on the emotions the body feels in regards to the trauma that have proven to be successful.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For tPTSD 2he next two blogs I want to talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder because I want to tackle something that is in the news a lot and affects a lot of people. When you hear PTSD more likely than not you will think of the soldiers coming back from the Middle East. While PTSD came to general awareness because of soldiers it can affect anyone. In fact PTSD can occur whenever any person regardless of gender, age, race, etc because it is defined by Mayo Clinic as “mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either by experiencing it or witnessing it.”

Due to the nature of PTSD occurring from uncontrollable events it is impossible to prevent. As expressed above war is one of the most common causes but outside of active combat there are many other causes. Some examples that Psych Central list include “kidnapping, serious accidents such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive.” The common factor in PTSD triggers is that it normally is caused by something/someone threatening a person’s life or an others life.

A practical example of this happening on a large scale is the 9/11 attacks. Many people in New York and Washington, D.C. did and are suffering from PTSD. According to the New York Times, “one measure of the psychological impact of 9/11 is this: At least 10,000 firefighters, police officers and civilians exposed to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder.” This example shows how people actively involved, onlookers, and people who had loved ones in the situation were affected.

Unfortunately because PTSD affects people’s emotions it can manifest itself differently in everyone but there are common symptoms. These symptoms are categorized into four groups: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

  • Intrusive memories symptoms:
    • Unwanted reoccurring memories that cause stress.
    • Flashbacks
    • Upsetting dreams
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
  • Avoidance:
    • Avoiding talking, and thinking about the event as well as avoiding places, activities, and people that remind you of the event.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood:
    • Negative feelings about yourself or other people
    • Hopelessness about the future
    • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Changes in emotional reactions:
    • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    • Always being on guard for danger
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Being easily startled or frightened

While these are common symptoms it is important to remember that these are not the only ones one may experience if they have PTSD. Feeling distraught or confused after a traumatic situation is normal. However, make sure to reach out for help if you or a loved one has symptoms for more than a month or if suicidal thoughts are present.

As much as PTSD can be hard to live with there have been successful advancements in the treatment for it. There are two main forms of treatment – psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy is common for almost any person suffering from PTSD. These are commonly carried out through cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy. As for medications, they are normally taken with psychotherapy. While they do not take away PTSD they can help alleviate symptoms so one can learn to manage and fight PTSD.

While there is no clear cut solution to PTSD it is possible to find ways to beat it. With the help from professionals, friends, and family it can be overcome. The first step is to not be afraid to talk about it. The stigmas and a pride can make it hard but it is the first step. With education and open dialogue we can conquer PTSD.

~Be mindful of the mind