Lasting Effects of Trauma in Older Veterans
The effects of trauma during wartime have been documented for centuries, but only in recent decades has the science behind post traumatic stress disorder been understood. A soldier in World War 2, or even the Civil War, may have alternatively been called “shell shocked” when he experienced anxiety attacks, depression, nightmares, and substance abuse problems. Now medical and psychological professionals recognize this condition as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and outline specific treatments to minimize its effects. If left untreated PTSD can cause debilitating mental illness, addiction, and even suicide. While PTSD is being brought to the public eye as our current soldiers return from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, older veterans deserve attention as well.
The Lingering Effects of PTSD
The effects of PTSD rarely clear up without special attention. There is no known cure for PTSD, but a combination of medical and therapeutic care can help traumatized soldiers process their pent-up emotions and learn to predict, control, and manage their response to triggers. But the tough, self-reliant culture of the military prevents many soldiers from seeking help. This was even truer for previous generations of soldiers. Veterans of WW2, Korea, and Vietnam experienced great tragedy and trauma and many carry the following emotional scars for the rest of their lives:
- Panic Attacks
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Emotional volatility
- Physical and/or verbal abuse of others
The brain tends to partially shut down during trauma as a defense against widespread nervous breakdown. When this happens, emotions such as grief, fear, anger, and guilt get stuck in the brain and cause all of these negative effects. Over time some veterans with PTSD learn to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, while others find themselves lonely, angry, and depressed because of the changes this disease causes to their personality.
Effective Treatment of PTSD and Related Issues
PTSD recovery usually involves a combination of medical care and counseling. As soldiers are educated about the physical and chemical causes of their disease they become empowered to manage their own recovery. Instead of feelings of shame these soldiers should feel entitled to the same level of care given to victims of gun shots or IEDs. PTSD is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of service. The human brain is not designed to handle battlefield violence, a constant threat of injury or death, or the death or dismemberment of friends without an intense reaction. Hopefully, as veteran soldiers learn about the true causes of their PTSD symptoms they will feel emboldened to seek the help they need. Even soldiers who have wrestled with the effects of trauma for forty years can find significant relief with the right help.
24 Hour PTSD Helpline
If you would like more information about PTSD recovery for older veterans please call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline today. Our staff is ready, any time of night or day, to confidentially answer your questions and to connect you with the best treatment program for your specific needs. Whether you are concerned about your own mental health, or are worried about a friend or loved one, we can help. Call now.