Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is just one of many issues soldiers may face upon their return from deployment. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal where grave, physical harm occurred or threatened an individual. When a person experiences such events, their mind and body experience shock. This is normal. Eventually, the human body moves on after it processes the event and makes sense of what happened. A person with PTSD has trouble making sense of the situation and their mind or body is unable to get over it, causing their body to remain in shock. It may cause a person to feel like they will never get over the traumatic event and it may make them also feel like they will never be normal again. A person may feel the need to shut out the memory and disconnect themselves from the feelings of the event. This attitude may cause a person to self-medicate by using alcohol, drugs, or over-the-counter medication, which can lead to addiction. In order to move on, a person must face their memories and emotions associated with the traumatic event.
What causes PTSD?
Virtually any traumatic or life-threatening event can trigger PTSD. A few examples of what can cause PTSD are receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis, violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or exposure to military combat.
Issues that tend to put people at higher risk for developing PTSD include increased duration of a traumatic event, higher severity of the trauma experienced, having an emotional condition prior to the event, or having little social support in the form of family or friends.
Whom does PTSD affect?
The greatest cause of PTSD among men is military combat. Women, in general, are at a higher risk to suffer from PTSD, so women in combat have a higher risk of suffering PTSD.
What are the symptoms?
A person can start to feel the symptoms of PTSD soon after a traumatic event, or they can come and go over time. It may seem like symptoms appear unexpectedly, but they are often triggered by something that reminds them of the traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
How does PTSD affect substance abuse?
When someone is struggling with the difficult emotions and traumatic memories, they may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. While alcohol or drugs may temporarily make them feel better, alcohol or drugs make PTSD worse in the end. Substance abuse worsens many symptoms of PTSD, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can add to problems at home and in relationships.
What can I do to get help?
If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD or trauma, you can contact your local VA hospital or vet center for help. Vet centers offer free counseling to combat veterans and their families. To learn about the resources and benefits available, you can also call the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387).
Click here for a nationwide directory of facilities for veterans, including VA hospitals and vet centers, provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.