Both in the military and civilian life, people encounter traumatic occurrences that challenge their perception of the world or themselves. Reliant on a scope of factors, the responses of some people to traumatic events may last for a short time while the reactions of others might result in long-lasting negative effects. It is estimated that approximately ten percent of military veterans experience chronic situations referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder denotes being overwhelmed by intense, depressing occurrences, especially life-threatening ones (Raskind et al., 2018). In some military veterans, the symptoms of PTSD decrease or disappear in a few months, mainly with the aid of caring relatives and friends. Nevertheless, in most veterans, the symptoms do not appear to fade away fast and continues to create trouble for the rest of their lives. PTSD in military veterans may be associated with direct combat tasks, staying in a dangerous battle zone for a long time, or participating in peacekeeping duties under difficult and nerve-racking situations. Military veterans should be assisted to effectively address PTSD since if unaddressed can lead to many other problems that negatively influence their quality of life, capacity to interact with others, and ability to undertake consequential duties.
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Problems Associated with PTSD in Military Veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans is typified by three major problems that encompass avoidance, arousal, and intrusive symptoms. Intrusive problems include memories, sounds, visualizations, and sentiments of traumatic occurrences. Military veterans suffering PTSD might continue holding onto the memories of past horrific incidences, which makes it difficult for them to pay close attention to their present experiences (Marmar et al., 2015). For instance, they might get recurring nightmares of the frightening events. In some instances, movement, excessive sweating, and acting out what happened while sleeping might go along with the nightmares. Military veterans with PTSD at times feel as if the occurrences were taking place again, conditions referred to as “flashbacks.” This leads to distress, guilt, grief, irritation, fear, and physical indications such as muscle tension and increased heartbeat when incidences remind them of the traumatic event.
Reminders and memories of distressing experiences are exceedingly horrid and often result in extensive agony. Consequently, military veterans suffering PTSD usually avoid incidences, places, or people that might be reminiscent of trauma (Seppälä et al., 2014). They mostly attempt to evade thinking about or talking of the traumatic events while avoiding painful sentiments linked to the memories. In the course of their avoidance efforts, military veterans end up withdrawing from family members, friends, and the society and start engaging in lesser duties. Rather than assisting them to shun painful memories successfully, the averting endeavors of military veterans result in feelings of not being part of the rest of the community, and this discourages them from engaging in activities that they previously used to enjoy. This makes the military veterans numb to their environs thus affecting normal daily feelings such as joy and love, irrespective of whether they are towards people close to them. With time, such responses result in depression, sentiments of segregation, and issues within the family. Moreover, the reactions cause problems with motivation as military veterans suffering PTSD find it difficult to make decisions or strive to succeed. This may be a difficult situation for close family members and friends to cope with since they often believe that the sufferer is being difficult or lazy.
Military veterans who have suffered traumatic events have often been confronted with life-threatening occurrences. Their suppositions and convictions that the world is safe and just, other people are friendly, and such traumatic incidences will not befall them again may be shattered by the event. Following traumatic experiences, military veterans with PTSD usually see menace everywhere and are tuned in to danger (Grupe, Wielgosz, Davidson, & Nitschke, 2016). This may result in being exceedingly vigilant, watchful, and easily distracted. In such people, disturbed sleep is prevalent. Fury is usually a fundamental aspect in PTSD with the suffering military veterans being irritable and prone to anger outbursts. Most of them feel disappointed, abandoned, and ill-judged by other people; this results in a feeling of betrayal that leads to resentment and bitterness. While some military veterans with PTSD articulate their anger verbally, other people become physically hostile and cruel.
Addressing the Problems
It is vital to comprehend that post-traumatic stress disorder is mainly associated with devastating incidences that are difficult to comprehend and accept. Every human being naturally has the inclination of attempting to understand the happenings around them. The moment trauma occurs; the incidence keeps lingering in the mind in an effort of deciphering what transpired. Nonetheless, attributable to the increased rates of distress linked to memories of trauma, the feelings and emotions have a tendency of being pushed away to safeguard the individual from distress. The shift back and forth from intrusive sentiments regarding the traumatic experience for evasion and numbing purposes continues indefinitely until when the cycle is tackled in an effective way. PTSD responses are adaptive and reasonable both as a means of survival in the course of distress and in endeavors to comprehend the occurrence of trauma (Grupe et al., 2016). The moment that symptoms of PTSD are identified, it is easy to realize the most effective reactions. The most difficult part is dealing with the occurrences that are no longer favorable but mainly interfere with the traumatized individual’s quality of life.
Having regular aerobic exercise such as jogging, cycling, walking, and swimming is crucial to the successful management of PTSD. For military veterans who have PTSD, their bodies are nearly set up for fight or flight. Physical exercise assists in the burning up of chemicals that psych the person up and aids them to become stress-free (Seppälä et al., 2014). Having enough rest, even if a person cannot sleep plays a crucial role in boosting the reserves of energy and strength. It is also helpful to embark on some form of yoga, meditation, or relaxation exercises. Military veterans should be advised to ask for assistance and support from family members, church leaders, friends, and community resources when they feel that traumatic events seem to overwhelm them.
Acknowledging unresolved problems and being honest with one’s feelings is important; that is, if one is feeling excessively frightened, hurt, guilty, or angry. Identifying and admitting the problem is a crucial step toward recovery. It is advisable to use the sentiments of pain and hurting as a motivator to make the required changes that can cause healing. Furthermore, military veterans should be cautioned against using PTSD or war experiences as justifications for harming themselves or other people (Marmar et al., 2015). There should be no vindication for being aggressive, violent, or ill-treating other people and every person should take responsibility for their behavior.
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If symptoms persist, there is a need to seek professional treatment for PTSD. Such treatment assists military veterans with PTSD to deal with what occurred and learn to acknowledge it as a past occurrence. Treatment by professional therapists or doctors may entail counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In counseling, therapists endeavor to expose the patient to thoughts and sentiments that cause remembrance of the event in a gradual and meticulous manner so that they can appear as any other ordinary experiences that do not cause distress. CBT entails the identification of distorted and absurd thoughts regarding the traumatic event and substituting them with a more balanced depiction (Raskind et al., 2018). Though medicines, such as antidepressants, may reduce feelings such as worry or sadness, they cannot treat the root causes of PTSD and there is a need for the patient to seek other forms of therapy, for instance, CBT. EMDR entails components of CBT with eye movement and other kinds of stimulation that include sounds and hand taps. It helps to make the patient’s nervous system unstuck, which makes them move on successfully from traumatic events.
Post-traumatic stress disorder signifies being weighed down by extreme, depressing occurrences, particularly life-threatening ones. PTSD in military veterans may be related to direct combat duties, staying in a hazardous battle zone for long, or participating in peacekeeping tasks under difficult and nerve-racking conditions. Military veterans should be helped to successfully address PTSD since if unaddressed can lead to many other problems that have a negative impact on the quality of life, capacity to interact with others, and ability to undertake consequential duties. Treatment by specialized therapists or physicians may entail counseling, medication, EMDR, or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Grupe, D. W., Wielgosz, J., Davidson, R. J., & Nitschke, J. B. (2016). Neurobiological correlates of distinct post-traumatic stress disorder symptom profiles during threat anticipation in combat veterans. Psychological Medicine, 46(9), 1885-1895.
Marmar, C. R., Schlenger, W., Henn-Haase, C., Qian, M., Purchia, E., Li, M.,… Karstoft, K. I. (2015). Course of posttraumatic stress disorder 40 years after the Vietnam War: Findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(9), 875-881.
Raskind, M. A., Peskind, E. R., Chow, B., Harris, C., Davis-Karim, A., Holmes, H. A.,… Romesser, J. (2018). Trial of prazosin for post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans. New England Journal of Medicine, 378(6), 507-517.
Seppälä, E. M., Nitschke, J. B., Tudorascu, D. L., Hayes, A., Goldstein, M. R., Nguyen, D. T.,… Davidson, R. J. (2014). Breathing‐based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in US Military veterans: A randomized controlled longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 27(4), 397-405.