Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms

Veterans returning home need help from his or her loved ones, learn to ask for help from available sources, and participate in recovery treatment.[1] Back in civilian life, Veterans may find it extremely difficult returning home. PTSD, a disorder characterized by symptoms of excessive drinking, inability to sleep, being awoken by nightmares of reoccurring events experienced, or acts of violence towards family and friends.[2] For many Veterans who have returned from war, have found it difficult to assimilate back into civilian life. “Most service members return from deployment without problems and successfully readjust to ongoing military employment or work in civilian settings.”[3] Unfortunately, those are few and far between. The VA is doing all it can do to increase that number. Here is a list of possible symptoms they look for when diagnosing veterans.

Some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Recurring thoughts, mental images, or nightmares about the event
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Experiencing anxiety and fear, especially when exposed to events or situations reminiscent of the trauma
  • Feeling on edge, being easily startled, or becoming overly alert
  • Feeling depressed or sad and having low energy
  • Experiencing memory problems, including difficulty in remembering aspects of the trauma
  • Feeling “scattered” and unable to focus on work or daily activities
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling irritable, easily agitated, or angry and resentful
  • Feeling emotionally “numb,” withdrawn, disconnected, or different from others
  • Spontaneously crying, feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness
  • Feeling extremely protective of, or fearful for, the safety of loved ones
  • Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma and avoiding activities, places, or even people that remind you of the event.[4]

Mental

The Veteran’s family has learned to become self–sufficient while the individual was away off to war, but find it difficult to live with those suffering for these symptoms. The world they once knew before deploying to war, have become foreign to them. One of the reasons for this is that the Veteran, once part of a team with a purpose, now must face the reality of living with a new enemy: PTSD. It is extremely important for Veterans to feel as if they are still part of a team, whether that is part of a family, community, or Veteran associations. Some Veterans “… return with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and some have suffered a traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, leaving a portion of sufferers with cognitive impairments.”[5] If the Veteran does not learn to reach out then those around him or her then others will be unsuccessful at reaching in to the individual’s life and help them transition back to civilian life. The Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling states, “For some individuals, dissociation may occur; they become amnestic about the feelings and memories of the trauma. They also feel anger toward those who were responsible for the events, ashamed of their feelings of helplessness, and guilty about what they did or failed to do.”[6] It took the Veteran months, even years, to train for military service. Now it will take even longer to train for battle against PTSD.

Emotional

The difficulty with transitioning back to civilian life has little to do with what others see on the surface and more to do underneath it. The journey back to recovery will be a process of maneuvering emotional obstacles set before the Veteran. “Previous research has demonstrated significant impairments in daily lives, as well as linkages with suicide, homelessness, and substance abuse, even when a mental disorder is not diagnosed.”[7] “Thus, it is important to consider the full spectrum of issues related to how the OEF/OIF veterans are transitioning back into home life and how they will fare in the years to come.”[8] Such things as “suicide, homelessness, and substance abuse” are effects caused by a deep-rooted issue.

Recovery is a process that the Veteran must endure. Others can help treat the symptoms, but the individual must discover that deep-rooted issue and learn to live with it. Rarely does one find a Veteran willing to talk about what he or she experienced during war unless they find an individual or group of Veterans who have been where he or she have been before. Not only is it rare, but also almost impossible to find one that has no problems. “An individual, couple or family coming for counseling needs to know that you care about them. You demonstrate this by your warmth, understanding, acceptance and belief in their ability to change and mature.”[9] It’s a good practice to treat Veterans as people and not another statistic.

[1] Finley, Erin P. Fields of combat: understanding PTSD among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. (New York: Cornell University, 2011): 157.

[2] Ibid., 1.

[3] Terri Tanielian, Lisa H. Jaycox, Terry L. Schell, Grant N. Marshall, M. Audrey Burnam, Christine Eibner, Benjamin R. Karney, Lisa S. Meredith, Jeanne S. Ringel and Mary E. Vaiana. Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations for Addressing Psychological and Cognitive Injuries. (Santa Monica, CA: RAND) Corporation, 2008):  29. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720z

[4] The Working Group VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress. (Washington D.C. 2010): 21.

[5] Tanielian, Invisible Wounds of War 29.

[6] David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 890.

[7] Ibid., 890.

[8] Tanielian, Invisible Wounds of War 3.

[9] H. Norman Wright. The New Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling (Kindle Locations 163-164). Kindle Edition.

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