Whether war is necessary or not is up for debate, but the fact that it is devastating is not. One look at veterans with PTSD should be enough to tell us what this traumatic event can do to a person’s mental health.
PTSD is one of the most paralysing mental health problems affecting service members who saw action during the course of their military service. Some veterans may not even show physical scars, but they are still dealing with the mental and emotional trauma of war.
The First Steps to Proper Treatment
What can we do to support military veterans and service members showing symptoms of PTSD?
Understanding the Situation
A good place to start is understanding the trauma from a life-changing event like violent combat.
Knowledge is Power
Knowing the symptoms of severe combat stress can help us act sooner and support our men and women in the military in getting PTSD treatment, getting them out of a potentially life threatening situation.
What Percentage of Soldiers Get PTSD?
Health care experts estimate that, among veterans and military personnel who saw active combat, 17% reported symptoms of PTSD. That is almost one out of every five of our veterans and active troops.
Why is PTSD so prevalent? Here are some of many possible reasons.
Many veterans sustained serious injuries when they served in the army. These physical injuries can sometimes remind them of the horrors of battle, causing flashbacks or nightmares. If the veteran suffered a brain injury, the risk is higher.
Failure to Get Timely Treatment
Some may struggle in recovering from their physical injuries and fail to recognise the need for other treatments, like mental health care. When this happens, the risk of PTSD increases.
Fear of Being Seen as Weak
Some veterans feel that seeking help is a sign of weakness. They deal with the situation themselves, which sometimes means turning to alcohol. This leads to lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, suicide.
It is important to talk to them and let them know that their bravery is beyond reproach, as shown by their sacrifices while in the army. Now, it is our turn to protect them.
Do Soldiers Recover from PTSD?
Like most mental disorders, PTSD has no cure. Still, there is hope after a PTSD diagnosis. With therapy and the support of friends and family, a person with the illness can lead a normal and happy life.
Using behavioural therapy is a good way of treating the disorder. This can help change negative thoughts, feelings, and eventually, behaviours. With this type of treatment, a person diagnosed with PTSD can learn to cope with the bad memories.
In this method, the individual suffering from PTSD is exposed to his or her traumatic memories under a safe environment. This could give the patient a chance to process the past and move on.
In this method, a therapist facilitates writing and storytelling activities to help the patient process the trauma of war.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
In EMDR, the therapist guides the patient in reliving the traumatic experiences in small doses while directing the movements of the eyes.
Talking to Someone
Outside of the family or circle of friends, veterans experiencing PTSD symptoms can talk to someone by calling 1-800-273-8255 in the US, 08457 90 90 90 in the UK, or 13 11 14 in Australia.
There are a few simple steps that can help people with PTSD when they start feeling anxious.
Taking 60 breaths while focusing on each exhale can help calm the nerves.
Positive Sensory Input
Just like loud noises and other stimuli can bring back the traumatic experience, good memories can help push them out. This can be done using family photos, music, or anything that brings comfort.
Are Soldiers With PTSD Dangerous?
The idea that soldiers living with PTSD can explode at the slightest provocation is a myth. Most veterans who experienced stress in combat and were diagnosed did not exhibit signs of aggression.
The Role of Alcohol Misuse
There is a study that links alcohol misuse among veterans to physical aggression. However, the same study shows that individuals with PTSD but no issue with alcohol are not likely to be dangerous.
What Causes PTSD for Soldiers?
Health experts are looking at three contributing factors.
The severity of combat exposure is one of the biggest reasons why some veterans have PTSD.
Some individuals are more susceptible to PTSD than others, and this varies from one person to another.
Causing Harm to Civilians or Prisoners
Some soldiers with PTSD inadvertently caused harm to unarmed people while carrying out their duties. This situation increases the risk for a person to develop PTSD.