IRON MOUNTAIN — Post traumatic stress disorder affects upwards of 20 percent of soldiers returning home from combat. Crowded places, loud noises, and even certain sights and smells can trigger PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that can surface after a person has gone through a significant traumatic experience; this can include sexual assault, a car accident, natural disasters, or an attack. Commonly, the disorder is associated with veterans who have been through combat.
“The reactions that come along with PTSD are actually fairly normal and expected,” explains Thad Strom, Assistant Chief for Mental Health at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center. “A lot of folks feel like their going crazy when they have these symptoms and a lot of times what we hear from veterans, that they notice, is they really just can’t stop thinking about the traumatic experience.”
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD is a very personal disorder, meaning everyone experiences it in different ways and often others won’t even notice that someone is suffering.
“People really reliving or re-experiencing the traumatic experience through things like nightmares and flashbacks. One of the other really hallmark symptoms is avoiding. So often times, a person will do anything in their power to avoid thinking about or feeling feelings associated with that,” says Strom.
Though symptoms vary from person to person, most veterans suffering from PTSD have similar indicators.
Strom says the two most common symptoms of PTSD are irritability and withdrawing from friends and family. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Feeling jumpy
- Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
- Reckless or self-destructive behavior
Strom continues, “Their body is reliving it in many different ways which leads them to not want to go places that stir up those memories.”
How is the VA helping?
Strom says the VA is beginning to see veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who are just now seeking help for PTSD.
“It’s very common that we see veterans that have really dealt with this for years and often times dealt with this through working themselves as a form of avoidance. So, often times, with retirement those symptoms get stirred up,” explains Strom.
Additionally, some veterans may not seek help and instead live with their symptoms. The VA hospital says that shouldn’t have to be the case.
“This is a treatable condition. The VA has made a lot of significant advancements in terms of the types of treatments that we offer and the effectiveness of those treatments. So we’re here for veterans of all war eras and we’re motivated to help,” adds Strom.
This tends to be a mult-faceted treatment of therapy and medication. Though treatment is specific to each individual.
Veterans of all war eras who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD should contact their VA medical facility.
How you can help veterans with PTSD
“There’s some great websites like the National Center for PTSD that has a lot of information. Some other things that communities can do, with the fourth of July weekend coming up…we often times talk about ‘can you be more respectful?'” says Strom. “If you know you have neighbors that are veterans maybe not launching off fireworks at all hours of the day or letting them know when you’re going to be doing it so it’s not as unexpected when there’s loud noises.”
Please be respectful this week of July 4th when setting off fireworks.