TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions trauma, assault, violence, and other possibly triggering words and ideas.
For a lot of our US veterans, returning home from service means struggling with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Often, these symptoms are debilitating, making day-to-day life incredibly difficult to handle. In today’s blog post, we will look at PTSD, veterans, and how the symptoms affect their everyday life.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental disorder that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events. Upsetting situations are common while we are alive and fear-related reactions like feeling upset, memory flashbacks, and trouble sleeping are common responses to them. However, for people with PTSD, these reactions are magnified and prolonged. They even hinder daily activities like working, going to school, or socializing.
PTSD In Veterans
Military service members returning from combat are at a higher risk of suffering from PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are roughly around 11-20% of veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD. The numbers vary by service area:
- Around 11-20% of Veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in eachyear.
- About 12% of Gulf War or Desert Storm veterans have PTSD each year.
- Roughly 15% of Vietnam Veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). An estimate of 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Apart from combat situations, another source of PTSD for veterans is military sexual trauma or MST which can occur during peacetime, training, or war. It was reported that around 55 out of 100 women and 38 out of 100 men have experienced sexual harassment while in the military.
8 Struggles of PTSD Veterans
Often, psychological disorders like PTSD are not automatically considered disabilities. However, the severity of PTSD symptoms can lead to partial or complete disability. Additionally, most PTSD symptoms are not visible, but they do interfere with day-to-day living. Here are eight difficulties brought by PTSD in military veterans that may surprise you.
- Living In Constant Fear
The main symptom of PTSD is re-experiencing. This happens when memories and sensations from the traumatic event come back to the patient. These may be in the form of nightmares, repeating flashbacks as if the trauma is happening again, or recurring images, sounds, smells, or feelings from the trauma.
Sometimes, re-experiencing happens without any warning, which can cause panic or anxiety attacks. This makes the person with PTSD live in constant fear and powerlessness which gets in the way of life in general.
- Mundane Everyday Things Are Difficult
With PTSD, veterans may have difficulty with seemingly easy or mundane everyday tasks. For instance, if a veteran’s source of trauma is driving or vehicle-related, it may be difficult for them to drive or even go out in the streets. Another example is that a veteran may want to always scout the area to look for possible threats like snipers or bombs even though they are just going to go inside a restaurant or a shop.
These behaviors are called avoidance which means a patient would always want to veer away from thoughts, feelings, people, places, activities, or situations that bring back memories of their source of trauma. Additionally, veterans may also sustain traumatic injuries which can lead to physical disabilities.
For most of us, doing errands or going to places are naturally easy things. However, for veterans with PTSD, these may be herculean tasks to accomplish.
- Loss Of Sense Of Self
According to the U.S. Veterans Magazine, Veterans coming home often have to deal with three major challenges:
- re-establishing their roles within their family or community
- Finding and obtaining a civilian job (sometimes for the first time ever, such as when enlisting after graduating from high school)
- adjusting to a life that involves making their own choices versus being told what to do, how to do it, and when
These challenges and the trauma of combat experiences make veterans at a higher risk of developing PTSD. Additionally, approximately 30% of people with PTSD suffer from dissociation or the feeling of being ‘out-of-body’ or experiencing the world as if it is not real. This loss of sense of self and identity makes it harder for military veterans to deal with daily activities.
- Struggles In School Or Work
Symptoms of PTSD such as sleep problems and difficulty concentrating can hinder a veteran’s way of working or studying. For those who have avoidant PTSD, just going out and being with people might already be a struggle. For some veterans, finding a job outside of the military may already be a challenge.
- Altered Relationships
Symptoms of PTSD, veterans’ disability (trauma injury-related), and sudden change of environment can all contribute to friction in relationships. Intense symptoms like mood swings and anger outbursts can cause serious problems within any relationship. Family members or anyone close to someone with PTSD can develop secondary trauma. Additionally, a person with PTSD often feels alone and misunderstood which further deepens their sense of isolation and disconnectedness from the world.
- Feelings Of Aloneness, Isolation, Alienation
In connection to the previous point, PTSD can make a person feel alone, alienated, and isolated, even in the presence of their closest relationships. Often, post-traumatic stress disorder makes a person think negatively of themselves and the world. In severe cases, some may have a false belief that life is actually not worth living. People with suicidal thoughts should seek immediate medical attention.
- Substance Abuse
With PTSD, veterans are also at higher risk of substance abuse. Alcohol or other drugs are often used to blunt the emotional and psychological pain that people with PTSD are experiencing. Developing a substance abuse disorder with PTSD is a type of co-occurring disorder that further complicates recovery.
Last but not the least, veterans with PTSD often have to struggle with stigma. Apart from the enduring stigma surrounding mental health, being in the military has always been romanticized, and with that comes the burden of being seen as weak if you are struggling with any condition. Often, this is also self-inflicted, which gets in the way of getting the right professional treatment for recovery.
Finding The Best Veterans PTSD Treatment
Veterans have unique needs because of their highly specific experiences and the military culture that they come from. Here at Roots Through Recovery, we understand that the unique values and aspects of this culture are vital in providing superior support.
If you are looking for specialized PTSD treatment for veterans, we are here to help. Here at Roots, we stay away from a cookie-cutter view of creating treatment plans for our patients, and we approach your recovery based on your specific situation, needs, and goals. Embrace the culture of wellness with us at Roots, located at the heart of Long Beach–a city that offers a diverse community for healing the mind, body, and spirit. Come visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807, or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.