The after-effects of surviving a traumatic event can linger for years for some people, causing significant mental and physical health issues. If problems such as flashbacks, anger, irritability, weight loss, bad thoughts, or other problems linger, you may be suffering from one or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Ptsd And Veterans: Statistics
The number of Veterans with PTSD differs by service era:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: about 11-20 out of every 100 veterans (about 11-20 percent) who served in either have PTSD each year.
- Gulf War: about 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans (or 12 percent) have PTSD each year.
- Vietnam War: “It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.”
What Does Ptsd Look Like In Veterans?
PTSD is common for veterans but manifests itself differently for each one experiencing it. Some veterans struggle with the “classic” symptoms of the disorder quite often, such as avoidance, hyper-vigilance, and intrusive memories, while others only have mild symptoms occasionally. Still, what does PTSD look like in veterans?
- PTSD symptoms affect and interfere with everyday life.
- It can manifest as recurring nightmares.
- Some veterans may have symptoms that are so regular that loved ones feel as if they’re walking on eggshells.
If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, it’s best to get help right away and begin treatment.
There are many symptoms of PTSD to watch for:
- Re-experiencing symptoms like flashbacks.
- Avoidance symptoms such as staying away from anyone or anything which acts as a reminder.
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms like being easily startled.
- Cognition and mood symptoms include memory problems, trouble thinking, distorted thoughts, and negative thoughts.
Helping Veterans Deal With Ptsd
Whether you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD or have a loved one struggling with the condition, there are steps that can be taken to help alleviate the disorder. Though many veterans choose treatments like ketamine to manage PTSD symptoms, there are other self-help methods worth considering:
- Get regular exercise. Even 10- to 30- minutes of light exercise can help burn off adrenaline, but a more vigorous workout has greater benefits: releasing endorphins to improve your mood and helping your nervous system out of its collective “funk.”
- Try to regulate your nervous system. If you can regulate your diet and other aspects of your life, then working to soothe your nerves is worth the effort. This means adopting mindful breathing exercises, taking in soothing sights, sounds, and smells, and reconnecting emotionally by not giving in to bad thoughts or memories of the trauma.
- Re-establish connections. This can be with friends and family, or just getting out and volunteering your time and expertise to a worthwhile cause, or joining a support group of people who understand what you’ve been through.
- Take care of your physical well-being. Besides exercise, the effects of PTSD can possibly be lessened by trying different relaxation techniques, finding healthy ways to release stress (like hitting a pillow or punching bag), maintaining a healthy meal plan and enjoying foods rich in Omega-3s, getting a good night’s sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
- Confront your fears from flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories by reciting a verbal script or making a statement to yourself that you’re safe, quietly describe to yourself what you’re seeing, and tap your arm or wrist to bring you back to the present. Movement, touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste can help “bring yourself back” from a nightmare or flashback.
- Work through and recover from survivor’s guilt.
It may be in your best interest to seek professional help. A mental health specialist may diagnose your condition and recommend different kinds of therapy or medicine to control PTSD symptoms. You can find self-help and other resources through the National Center for PTSD, as well as here and here.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Diagnosis and treatment for PTSD follows the same course as many other mental illnesses and chronic pain disorders. If seeking help, you can expect to undergo a physical exam and lab tests to uncover potential causes; a psychiatric evaluation to determine your current state of mental health, and whether you have a personal or family history of mental illness. A doctor will then refer to the DSM-5 before offering a diagnosis and presenting treatment options.
PTSD is a serious mental health disorder affecting thousands of people in America and even more worldwide, but treatment options are available. If you suffer from PTSD, get help by talking with a mental healthcare professional about psychotherapy, self-help, support groups, or treatment options like ketamine to manage the symptoms.