How to Spot PTSD in Returning Veterans
News about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more common especially in light of current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. While more people know about the disorder, knowing the difference between PTSD, depression and the normal process of reintegrating after a tour of duty is not so clear.
Veterans and PTSD
Combat, emergency situations and other traumatic events are highly stressful for the people who experience them. The way a person reacts to such situations is highly individual. For instance, it’s common for returning veterans to need an adjustment period after returning home and to feel differently about day-to-day life. Some people, however, have a harder time coping with the fearful memories of combat and experience PTSD, depression or another mental health disorder.
Veterans are at higher risk for developing PTSD because of the characteristics of combat zones. Researchers know there is a higher link between PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) for soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan according to NIH Medline Plus. Symptoms of TBI and PTSD may overlap, making it important to determine the cause of each disorder. Even blast waves from explosives may cause TBI because of the blast’s ability to rattle the brain inside the skull.
Around 7.7 million American adults experience PTSD, according to Medline. The disorder occurs at any age and is more likely to affect women than men. Current research shows a link between PTSD and genetics and the likelihood for the disorder to co-occur along with depression, addiction and other anxiety disorders.
It’s important to address PTSD as soon as possible according to the National Council on Disability. Early treatment and prevention efforts help veterans regain a normal life and prevent long-term suffering. For people who experience TBI and PTSD, it’s important to treat all symptoms at the same time. TBI can impair a person’s ability to think as well as his memory, attention and ability to control moods. PTSD can also affect memory and mood, but the symptoms are more specifically related to trauma.
The National Center for PTSD offers several guidelines for identifying PTSD, and distinguishing it from other disorders. PTSD is a complex illness that affects all aspects of a person’s life. It can result from any ongoing trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or other traumatic events. The most common symptoms of PTSD are grouped into four main areas according to the center:
- Re-living the event – This includes sudden feelings that the traumatic event is occurring along with emotional or physical reactions like panic.
- Avoiding memories of the event – People may go out of the way to separate from others and/or feel emotionally numb. They also may avoid anything associated with the trauma.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings – People may lose loving feelings toward others and may stay away from relationships. They may forget certain parts of traumatic events and believe the world is dangerous and full of untrustworthy people.
- Being hyper-vigilant – This includes symptoms such as insomnia, irritability and anger as well as feeling always on guard for danger.
PTSD symptoms usually occur in the few months following a traumatic event, but they can happen periodically or years after the event. A person who experiences the symptoms longer than three months, experiences intense feelings of distress from past memories and is unable to lead a normal life needs treatment.
New Research and PTSD Treatments
The latest PTSD research is focused on ways to diagnose the disorder earlier and even prevent it. Since the disorder is linked to intense feelings of fear, researchers, such as Dr. Barbara Rothbaum with the Emory University School of Medicine, want to find ways to help combat veterans and trauma victims process difficult events before they are stored in certain areas of the brain, notes Medline. She also studies the benefits of using certain drugs, such as the antiobiotic D-cycloserine, to activate areas of the brain that control feelings of fear as a way to enhance PTSD therapies. Research shows a type of talk therapy known as exposure treatment successfully helps PTSD sufferers deal with trauma memories by talking about the most fearful times in a controlled way.
Need Help Finding PTSD Treatment?
Learning ways to overcome the psychological challenges of PTSD and other anxiety disorders are important steps to a better life. PTSD also co-occurs with addiction, another treatable brain disease that prevents people from having healthy relationships and full lives. There is no reason to fight these diseases on your own.
If you suffer with PTSD, there are treatment solutions that offer healthy ways to cope. Do not let a mental health disorder prevent a full, healthy life. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer options for effective treatment.
PTSD and other mental health disorders are treatable and people who seek help learn skills that improve day-to-day life and enrich their relationships. Call us today, and start on the path to a better life.