Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Tribute to Our Veterans
It is only fitting to be writing about PTSD, given that November 11 is Veteran’s Day, a time in which we celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans.
PTSD can occur after experiencing (or witnessing) any life-threatening event such as a serious accident, crime, or childhood abuse. Veterans are particularly vulnerable to PTSD since many have experienced threats to their lives, life-altering wounds, and the deaths of their comrades in arms.
Let me take a moment to acknowledge the immense debt that we owe our veterans for risking (and sacrificing) their lives to preserve our freedom and way of life. We have the liberty to pursue our chosen way of life because of their valor and sacrifices. We are deeply indebted to our nation’s veterans. Thank you so much!!
Incidence of PTSD
It is estimated that in the U.S. alone PTSD strikes over 5 million people each year, and that millions more will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. There is no other population at greater risk to PTSD than our military veterans.
I personally find it appalling that we as a nation don’t do more to assist our veterans in helping them recover from PTSD and to reestablish their lives after they have sacrificed so much. Many veterans experience barriers to accessing treatment. The long wait lists at VA facilities along with the social stigma of seeking treatment are two such barriers.
Major Signs of PTSD and Common Responses
There are several signs of PTSD regardless of the particular cause, including:
1.) Exposure to a traumatic, life-threatening event. The trauma could be a single event (e.g., an accident), chronic events (e.g., childhood abuse), or multiple, complex events at different points in life.
2.) Internal reminders of the event in the form of flashbacks (a reliving of the event in the here and now), nightmares, or intrusive thoughts and memories of the event.
3.) Avoidance of external, environmental reminders of the event.
4.) Significant changes in mood and thinking, e.g., increased anxiety, numbness, or irritability.
Roughly, 30% of people who experience a life-threatening event will develop PTSD. A major risk factor in the development of PTSD is the degree to which a victim perceives a sense of helplessness in the midst of the trauma. One key protective factor is the degree of psychological resilience a potential victim possesses prior to experiencing a trauma.
Rather than telling their doctor, family member, or a friend about their PTSD, which helps to decrease their sense of shame, victims of PTSD often complicate the situation by numbing themselves with drugs, alcohol, food or other agents. Many victims tend to isolate themselves or work excessively to occupy their minds. If left untreated, PTSD is not likely to improve and can contribute to the development of chronic pain, an anxiety or depressive disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sleep problems, all of which interfere with the ability to function at work or home.
Treatments and Coping Strategies
Recovery from PTSD can be improved through regular exercise to relieve internal stress; stress-management strategies (e.g., mindful breathing) to help control nerves; connecting with others to decrease isolation; psychotherapy to address what happened as well as the meaning of the traumatic event; and medications to address the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
Traditional therapies for PTSD include cognitive-processing therapy, prolonged exposure, stress inoculation therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). However more recent research, using randomized controlled groups, indicates that energy psychology techniques are twice as effective (86% versus 49% improvement) in half the time (6 versus 12 sessions) compared to more traditional treatments offered and officially sanctioned by the VA. Energy psychology uses elements of the established exposure and cognitive-processing therapies in combination with the stimulation of acupuncture points.
Anyone experiencing PTSD need not suffer alone and can reach out for professional help by calling us at Summit Clinical Services: 630-260-0606.
In addition, the following websites provide valuable information about PTSD and available resources.
For veterans, the following website provides a crisis line, self-help tools, and stories of other veterans dealing with PTSD.
-Jeffrey L. Santee, Ph.D., DCEP