With decades long conflicts in the Middle East, a large number of military veterans are coming home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).For the past years, a significant increase was seen in the number of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans seeking professional help for PTSD. PTSD is not exclusively seen in military personnel and veterans, in fact, it affects about eight million Americans in a given year but the circumstances of military veterans hinders them for receiving the appropriate treatment.
The concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not something new. As early as 490 B.C. existence of war-related psychological trauma was already mentioned by Herodotus, the Greek historian, in the writing of Battle of Marathon. The historian described an Athenian warrior who became blind when the soldier beside him was killed despite not sustaining any injuries. Such accounts of war trauma after military encounters and battles are featured in early culture literature, however, symptoms of PTSD became prevalent during the American Civil War. Also during this time, formal medical interventions were started to address the psychological effects of combat.
The estimated prevalence rates of PTSD among returning service members vary depending on the wars and eras. In a study conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, 13.5% of the deployed and nondeployed personnel are positive for PTSD while other studies show that the rate may go as high as 20% to 30%. In fact, as many as 500,000 American troops who were assigned in these wars spanning 13 years have been diagnosed with PTSD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder also called “shell shock” or “combat stress” is described as the development of persistent symptoms at the same time, experiencing difficulty in functioning following a traumatic life-threatening event.
Tips on PTSD in veteran recovery
Connect with others.
There is an adjustment period living as a civilian again. It is perfectly fine to share your feelings with friends and family members or you can even join stranger chat groups for veterans if you want your identity to be hidden.
Take care of your body.
Since your body is accustomed to adrenaline, everyday life as a civilian might feel strange and uneventful. Develop healthy habits such as:
- Take time to relax
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Get plenty of sleep
- Support your body with healthy diet
Deal with nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
- State to yourself the reality
- Describe your surroundings to orient yourself
- Try tapping your arms
- Work through survivor’s guilt.
Allow yourself to heal from the event. Healing doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting the memory of those who died nor doesn’t also mean that you will have no regrets. Realistically assess your role in the event.
- Is the amount of responsibility one in assuming reasonable?
- Could I have done something to prevent or stop the event?
- Are you judging your decisions based on facts or emotions?
- Did you do your best at that time given the circumstances?
- Do you honestly believe that if you had died someone else will live?
Seek professional treatment.
- Professional treatment may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy- gradual exposure to the reminders of the traumatic event and replacement of distorted thoughts into something neutral or positive.
- Medications- antidepressants may be prescribed for depression and general anxiety
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing- a combination of elements of cognitive behavioral therapy with eye movements.
- BetterHelp is a good online source for psychological conditions such as this.