PTSD, TBI…an alphabet soup of things that negatively impact the lives of those who have served in our nation’s military. The alphabet soup made even thicker by the treatment modalities (CPT, PE, DBT, EMDR) offered by medical and psychological healthcare.
What’s it all mean?
The VA defines PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) as “a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”
The symptoms can be set off by what’s commonly called a trigger. What that trigger is depends on the person and what they’ve experienced. For some, loud noise, for others, crowds of people. Maybe its a smell, a feeling, something that wouldn’t be noticable, and certainly not troubling, to anyone else.
In WWI, it was known as “shell shock”- seen as a reaction to the explosion of artillery shells. In WWII, they adapted and called it “battle fatigue” due to the long shifts in combat. In the 1950’s, psychology experts started using a diagnosis of “gross stress reaction” and then finally changed and modified to the more current day beliefs.
According to the VA, about 4 of every 100 American men and 10 out every 100 American women will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.
Do you love someone who has PTSD? Please let them know they are not alone. Be patient. Listen without judgement or advice. Your veteran looks like the same person, but their military experience has changed them. Internally they have been changed by their trauma. Don’t try to force the veteran to talk, but be sure they are aware that you can be their safe space to share what they feel they can. Don’t be afraid to ask a veteran what he/she needs in a given moment, and accept that it might not be what you can give. Help them connect with resources. There are plenty of them available. Healing can happen. PTSD is not a weakness. There is hope and there is help. Thanking a veteran needs to start at home.