PTSD in Military Veterans Causes, Symptoms, and Steps to Recovery

Soldier with therapist

For all too many veterans, returning from military service means coping with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may be having a hard time readjusting to life out of the military. Or you may constantly be feeling on edge, emotionally numb and disconnected, or close to panicking or exploding. But no matter how long the V.A. wait times, or how isolated or emotionally cut off from others you feel, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and there are plenty of things you can do to start feeling better. These steps can help you learn to deal with nightmares and flashbacks, cope with feelings of depression, anxiety or guilt, and regain your sense of control.

What causes PTSD in veterans?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after you experience severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It’s normal for your mind and body to be in shock after such an event, but this normal response becomes PTSD when your nervous system gets “stuck.”

Your nervous system has two automatic or reflexive ways of responding to stressful events:

Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when you need to defend yourself or survive the danger of a combat situation. Your heart pounds faster, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten, increasing your strength and reaction speed. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system calms your body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.

Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced too much stress in a situation and even though the danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD.

Recovering from PTSD involves transitioning out of the mental and emotional war zone you’re still living in and helping your nervous system become “unstuck.”

Symptoms of PTSD in veterans

While you can develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, sometimes symptoms don’t surface for months or even years after you return from deployment. While PTSD develops differently from veteran to veteran, there are four symptom clusters:

  1. Recurrent, intrusive reminders of the traumatic event, including distressing thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks where you feel like the event is happening again. Experiencing extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the trauma such as panic attacks, uncontrollable shaking, and heart palpitations.
  2. Extreme avoidance of things that remind you of the traumatic event, including people, places, thoughts, or situations you associate with the bad memories. Withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in everyday activities.
  3. Negative changes in your thoughts and mood, such as exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself or the world and persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame. Diminished ability to experience positive emotions.
  4. Being on guard all the time, jumpy, and emotionally reactive, as indicated by irritability, anger, reckless behavior, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and hypervigilance.

Suicide prevention in veterans with PTSD

It’s common for veterans with PTSD to experience suicidal thoughts. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn’t mean that you are crazy, weak, or flawed.

If you are thinking about taking your own life, seek help immediately. Please read Suicide Help, talk to someone you trust, or call a suicide helpline:

  • In the U.S., call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • In the UK, call 08457 90 90 90.
  • In Australia, call 13 11 14.
  • Or visit IASP to find a helpline in your country.

PTSD in veterans recovery step 1: Get moving

As well as helping to burn off adrenaline, exercise can release endorphins and improve your mood. By really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can even help your nervous system become “unstuck.”

  • Exercise that is rhythmic and engages both your arms and legs—such as running, swimming, basketball, or even dancing—works well if, instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts as you move, you focus on how your body feels.
  • Notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of wind on your skin.
  • Rock climbing, boxing, weight training, or martial arts can make it easier to focus on your body movements—after all, if you don’t, you could get injured.
  • Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more each day—or if it’s easier, three 10-minute spurts of exercise are just as good.

The benefits of the great outdoors

Pursuing outdoor activities in nature like hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing can help challenge your sense of vulnerability and help you transition back into civilian life.

  • Seek out local organizations that offer outdoor recreation opportunities.
  • In the U.S., check out Sierra Club Military Outdoors which offers opportunities to get out into nature and get moving.

Step 2: Self-regulate your nervous system

PTSD can leave you feeling vulnerable and helpless. But you have more control over your nervous system than you may realize. When you feel agitated, anxious, or out of control, these tips can help you change your arousal system and calm yourself.

Mindful breathing. To quickly calm yourself in any situation, simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each out breath.

Sensory input. Just as loud noises, certain smells, or the feel of sand in your clothes can instantly transport you back to the combat zone, so too can sensory input quickly calm you. Everyone responds a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you. Think back to your time on deployment: what brought you comfort at the end of the day? Perhaps it was looking at photos of your family? Or listening to a favorite song, or smelling a certain brand of soap? Or maybe petting an animal quickly makes you feel calm?

Reconnect emotionally. By reconnecting to uncomfortable emotions without becoming overwhelmed, you can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress, balance your moods, and take back control of your life. See our Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

Step 3: Connect with others

Connecting with others face to face doesn’t have to mean a lot of talking. For any veteran with PTSD, it’s important to find someone who will listen without judging when you want to talk, or just hang out with you when you don’t. That person may be your significant other, a family member, one of your buddies from the service, or a civilian friend. Or try:

Volunteering your time or reaching out to someone in need. This is a great way to both connect to others and reclaim your sense of power.

Joining a PTSD support group. Connecting with other veterans facing similar problems can help you feel less isolated and provide useful tips on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery.

Connecting with civilians

You may feel like the civilians in your life can’t understand you since they haven’t been in the service or seen the things you have. But people don’t have to have gone through the exact same experiences to be able to offer support. What matters is that the person you’re turning to cares about you, is a good listener, and a source of comfort.

  • If you’re not ready to open up about what happened, that’s perfectly okay.
  • Instead of going into a blow-by-blow account of events, you can just talk about how you feel.
  • You can tell the other person what they can do to help, whether it’s just sitting with you, listening, or doing something practical.
  • Remember: people who care about you welcome the opportunity to help; being supportive is not a burden for them.

If connecting is difficult

No matter how close you are to someone, PTSD can mean that you still don’t feel any better after talking. If that describes you, there are ways to help the process along.

Exercise or move. Before chatting with a friend, either exercise or move around. Jump up and down, swing your arms and legs, or just flail around. Your head will feel clearer and you’ll find it easier to connect.

Vocal toning. As strange as it sounds, vocal toning is a great way to open up to social engagement. Sit straight and simply make “mmmm” sounds. Change the pitch and volume until you experience a pleasant vibration in your face.

Step 4: Take care of your body

Without the rush of still being in a combat zone, you may feel strange or even dead inside and find it difficult to relax. Many veterans are drawn to things that offer a familiar adrenaline rush, whether it’s caffeine, drugs, violent video games, driving recklessly, or daredevil sports. However, the symptoms of PTSD can be hard on your body and mind so it’s important to put a priority on sleep, healthy food, and calming activities.

Healthy habits

Take time to relax with relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, or yoga.

Avoid alcohol and drugs (including nicotine).  It can be tempting to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb painful feelings and memories and get to sleep. But substance abuse (and cigarettes) can make the symptoms of PTSD worse.

Find safe ways to blow off steam. Pound on a punching bag, pummel a pillow, sing along to loud music, or find a secluded place to scream at the top of your lungs.

Support your body with a healthy diet.  Omega-3s play a vital role in emotional health so incorporate foods such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts into your diet. Limit processed and fried food, sugars, and refined carbs which can exacerbate mood swings and energy fluctuations.

Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Step 5: Deal with flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts

Flashbacks usually involve visual and auditory memories of combat. It feels as if it’s happening all over again so it’s vital to reassure yourself that the experience is not occurring in the present.

State to yourself (out loud or in your head) the reality that while you feel as if the trauma is currently happening, you can look around and recognize that you’re safe.

Use a simple script when you awaken from a nightmare or start to experience a flashback: “I feel [panicked, overwhelmed, etc.] because I’m remembering [traumatic event], but as I look around I can see that the event isn’t happening right now and I’m not in danger.”

Describe what you see when look around (name the place where you are, the current date, and three things you see when you look around).

Try tapping your arms to bring you back to the present.

Tips for grounding yourself during a flashback

Movement – Move around vigorously (run in place, jump up and down, etc.); rub your hands together; shake your head

Touch – Splash cold water on your face; grip a piece of ice; touch or grab on to a safe object; pinch yourself; play with worry beads or a stress ball

Sight – Blink rapidly and firmly; look around and take inventory of what you see

Sound – Turn on loud music; clap your hands or stomp your feet; talk to yourself (tell yourself you’re safe, you’ll be okay)

Smell – Smell something that links you to the present (coffee, mouthwash, your wife’s perfume) or a scent that has good memories

Taste – Suck on a strong mint or chew a piece of gum; bite into something tart or spicy; drink a glass of cold water or juice

Step 6: Work through survivor’s guilt

Feelings of guilt are very common among veterans with PTSD. You may have seen people injured or killed, often your friends and comrades.

  • You may ask yourself questions such as: Why did I survive when others didn’t?
  • You may end up blaming yourself for what happened and believing that your actions (or inability to act) led to someone else’s death.
  • You may feel that you’re the one who should have died. This is survivor’s guilt.

Healing from survivor’s guilt

Healing doesn’t mean that you’ll forget what happened or those who died. And it doesn’t mean you’ll have no regrets. What it does mean is that you’ll look at your role more realistically:

  • Is the amount of responsibility you’re assuming reasonable?
  • Could you really have prevented or stopped what happened?
  • Are you judging your decisions based on full information about the event, or just your emotions?
  • Did you do your best at the time, under challenging circumstances?
  • Do you truly believe that if you had died, someone else would have survived?

Honestly assessing your responsibility and role can free you to move on and grieve your losses. Instead of punishing yourself, you can redirect your energy into honoring those you lost and finding ways to keep their memory alive.

Step 7: Seek professional treatment

Professional treatment for PTSD can help you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced and may involve:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or counselling. This involves gradually “exposing” you to reminders of the event and replacing distorted thoughts with a more balanced picture.

Medication, such as antidepressants. While medication may help you feel less sad or worried, it doesn’t treat the causes of PTSD.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This incorporates elements of CBT with eye movements or other rhythmic, left-right stimulation to help you become “unstuck.”

Helping a veteran with PTSD

When a loved one returns from military service with PTSD, it can take a heavy toll on your relationship and family life. You may have to take on a bigger share of household tasks, deal with the frustration of a loved one who won’t open up, or even deal with anger or other disturbing behavior.

Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally. If your loved one seems distant, irritable, angry, or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. Many veterans with PTSD find it difficult to talk about their experiences. Never try to force your loved one to open up but let him know that you’re there if he wants to talk. It’s your understanding that provides comfort, not anything you say.

Be patient and understanding. Getting better takes time so be patient with the pace of recovery. Offer support but don’t try to direct your loved one.

Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers such as certain sounds, sights, or smells. If you are aware of what causes an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to help your loved one calm down.

Take care of yourself. Letting your loved one’s PTSD dominate your life while ignoring your own needs is a surefire recipe for burnout. Make time for yourself and learn to manage stress. The more calm, relaxed, and focused you are, the better you’ll be able to help your loved one.

More help for PTSD and trauma

Resources and references

Help for veterans with PTSD and their family members in the U.S.

Veterans Crisis Line – A confidential, free hotline for veterans and their families and friends. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or connect via chat or text (838255).

PTSD Program Locator – Find specialized VA PTSD treatment programs near you. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Veteran Combat Call Center – A 24/7 hotline where you can talk with another combat veteran: 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387).

Help for Veterans with PTSD – Learn how to earn how to earn how to enroll for VA health care and get an assessment. (National Center for PTSD)

24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury – Get help for traumatic brain injury and other psychological health issues. Call 1-866-966-1020 or connect through chat or email. (DoD’s Defense Centers of Excellence)

Vet Centers – If you are a combat veteran or you experienced sexual trauma during your military service, you can speak with a therapist at your local Vet Center for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA. Just bring your DD214. (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)

StartYourRecovery.org is a free, confidential tool that helps individuals take steps toward a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol. It was developed with the input of leading clinicians, experts from the White House and SAMHSA, and people in recovery themselves.

Help for veterans with PTSD in other countries

Canadian veterans: visit Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) or call 1-800-883-6094 to talk to a peer who has been through similar experiences.

UK veterans: visit Combat Stress or call the 24-hour helpline 0800 138 1619.

Australian veterans: visit Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) or call 1800 011 046.

General PTSD resources for veterans

National Center for PTSD – A comprehensive, helpful resource for veterans with PTSD and their family members, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

About Face – A website dedicated to improving the lives of veterans with PTSD. Learn about PTSD, hear real stories from other veterans, and get advice from experienced clinicians.

Make the Connection – Learn about PTSD in veterans and other related issues. Includes honest and candid descriptions from veterans about their experiences.

PTSD treatments and recovery for veterans

What Can I Do if I Think I Have PTSD? – Outlines the steps you can take if you think you may have PTSD, as well as the reasons to seek treatment early. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Understanding PTSD Treatment (PDF) – Explore proven treatment and therapy options for PTSD, hear success stories, and debunk common treatment myths. (National Center for PTSD)

Dogs and PTSD – Learn more about service dogs and how they can help you manage PTSD symptoms and boost your emotional well-being. (National Center for PTSD)

Mindfulness and meditation training could ease PTSD symptoms, researchers say – Research shows that mindfulness meditation can help vets with PTSD. (The Washington Post)

Post-Traumatic Stress’s Surprisingly Positive Flip Side – This article explores the positive growth and resilience that can come as you work through PTSD. (The New York Times Magazine)

Sierra Club Military Outdoors – Sign up for outdoor trips and other services for veterans and their families in the U.S. (Sierra Club)

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-in-military-veterans.htm

Veteran Ocean Adventure

http://veteransoceanadventures.org/

Diving

SCUBA Diving is a sport that challenges veterans to explore a completely different environment: the undersea world! Veterans Ocean Adventures offers DISCOVER SCUBA DIVING, a three hour introduction to the sport conducted in a pool setting. After veterans receive a brief familiarization of the equipment and a basic overview of skills needed they proceed to the deep end of the pool under the supervision of an instructor. Here veterans experience breathing on SCUBA while floating weightless in the water column! Veterans Ocean Adventures connects those interested in pursuing certification with instructors who understand their needs and with community resources for financial assistance, if needed, to offset the cost of training. Veterans Ocean Adventures sponsors or co-hosts special events such as Veterans Dives, Adaptive SCUBA training and the Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge.

Cressi Warrior Program – Dive Gear for Wounded Vets

Intermission Story (3) – Cpl. Delmer R. Beam & PTSD

 

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/40099923/posts/9947

Taken from the book, “Soldiers Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs” with permission by Myra Miller; written by Marshall Miller.

War Stories don’t always end when the shooting stops and soldiers return to civilian life.  The family of former Army Corporal Delmer Beam can tell you all about he horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cpl. Beam;s separation papers list him as a “Combat Infantryman” in the Army’s 6th Division, 1st Infantry Regiment, C Company.  His WWII experiences started in 1939, as a 17-year old, at Fort Jackson near Columbia, South Carolina and stretched into August 1945, after several years of bitter fighting in the South Pacific against Japanese forces at New Guinea and the Philippines.

Delmer’s wife, Gladys, told her children, Lonnie, Roger and Lana, that the father they came to know after the war was nothing like the “joyful, fun guy” who gave 6½ years of his life – and numerous difficult years beyond – to the cause of freedom.

Gladys said the war destroyed her husband, both mentally and physically.  In the mid-1960’s, Lana said he submitted to shock treatments at Mount Vernon Hospital to calm down his combat issues.  The children couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July.

The few stories Beam told about his experiences were tough to hear. Like the one where soldiers were ordered to shoot thirty rounds of ammunition every morning into the surrounding trees to protect the camp from Japanese snipers, who would climb high to get maximum angles on their targets.  Once, Beam recalled, several soldiers were killed by a sniper, even after the morning strafing.  After an exhaustive search, the sniper finally was located hiding in a water canvas bag hanging from a tree.  He had crawled in, poked a small hole in the canvas and shot his victims with a pistol.

Japanese marksmen and fierce fighting weren’t the only obstacles thrown in Beam’s path.  Malaria was a difficult burden and an attack from scrub typhus mites nearly killed him.  Delmer told his family he got so sick from the mites that he was presumed dead while lying on a stretcher on a bench.  Someone saw him move however and he was transferred to a hospital ship.

His son Roger, chronicled his memories of his Dad’s experience :

As a young boy, I was always enamored with army war stories.  I would ask him about the war many times.  Only on a very few occasions would he talk about it.  It is strange how I can remember some of the stories he told me when I can’t remember what i did yesterday….

He said he saw GI’s almost kill each other over a piece of chicken wire.  The reason is that they would stretch the wire over their fox holes so the Japanese hand grenades would hit the wire and bounce back before it exploded.  It rained every day in the jungle and was very hot and humid…

He told me about his best friend, a young 19-year old from Hope, Arkansas.   While they were being attacked one day by Japanese, my Dad kept telling him to stop sticking his head up over the embankment they were behind, but the young man kept doing it until he got hit in the head and died in my dad’s arms.  This has always made a picturesque impression on me…

I know he was haunted the rest of his life about what he went through, just like so many others.  He was a good dad and even got better the older he got… Dad never met a stranger, he would talk to anyone.

Despite his health issues, Delmer spent his post-war years in Dixon, Missouri, and worked at Fort Leonard Wood as a fire inspector.  He died in 1991 at age 70.  His daughter had these words to remember her Dad:  I guess the most uplifting thing about my dad was… he really believed that he survived when others died because God wasn’t done with him yet.

From Beam’s grandson, Roger Beam Jr., :

My grandpa Delmar told me this story several times as a small boy.  I think he always got a kick out of it and was probably one of his “better” memories of the war.

He told me of the time his squad was out one evening climbing around the sides of trees collecting peppers that they used to flavor basically all their food.  They had rifles slung and arms full of peppers.  As they came around a tree, to their shock and surprise they ran into a squad of Japanese soldiers doing the exact same thing!  He said the resulting chaos was both terrifying and hilarious, as both groups scrambled away.  Not a shot was fired and they saved their peppers!

In the midst of such a horrible time for my grandfather, it does make smile a bit remembering how he smiled when telling this story.

Click on images to enlarge.

Why I Explain My PTSD by My Symptoms

Explain PTSD symptoms - your specific symptoms - to friends. Explaining the specifics of your PTSD symptoms can reduce stress and ease symptoms. Find out why.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/05/why-i-explain-my-ptsd-by-my-symptoms/

It can be difficult to explain posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms to friends, but it helps me to do so. PTSD symptoms include an array of possibilities such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, difficulty bonding, addiction, insomnia, and dissociation. People experience PTSD in very different ways, based on their trauma history, resilience, supports and a myriad of other factors. So here is why I find it beneficial to explain how my specific PTSD symptoms manifest themselves, and why you might too.

Explain What PTSD Symptoms Look Like to Friends

Many people have a narrow definition of PTSD. With so many veterans developing PTSD, it is understandable that a common perception of PTSD involves someone who has been in a combat situation. However, PTSD is not choosy. It impacts the military, emergency response personnel, victims of abuse, witnesses to abuse, and other individuals who have experienced significant trauma.

When I tell someone I have PTSD it is because I want them to understand me better. I want them to know that at times I might appear spacey or inattentive, react poorly to sudden changes in routines or plans, become hypervigilant in unfamiliar spaces, and seldom get enough sleep. In explaining my PTSD symptoms, I hope to set the stage for supportive interactions when my symptoms manifest.

If you find yourself avoiding situations or backing out of plans at the last minute or you feel trapped at times because you become anxious or agitated, it might be a chance to share some of your symptoms with friends and talk about how they impact you when they appear. It doesn’t even require much detail. For example, I tell friends, “I am hoping to come to your party, but I often get very nervous thinking about being around strangers, so I may not be in the right frame of mind to be there.”

Explain PTSD by Symptoms to Reduce Them

Once I began to explain my PTSD symptoms to my friends, something interesting happened. I found myself attending more functions, more comfortable asking someone to repeat themselves when I had lost focus on the conversation, and more able to respond to last-minute requests by taking a few moments to process. My friends and acquaintances have even begun to show me support by giving me advanced notice for changes, inviting me to arrive at gatherings early, or asking me if I need a break or would like to get some fresh air when we are in tight spaces.

By sharing my triggers and reactions, I have made it easier to join in activities. I find that knowing I have a way out of an uncomfortable situation that those around me can understand removes a significant amount of worry. When my stress is lower, my symptoms are more in control.

Do you have any thoughts on this? How much do you explain to friends and family about your symptoms? Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

PTSD Treatments: PTSD Therapy, PTSD Medications Can Help

Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment consists of PTSD therapy and PTSD medication. PTSD treatments are often combined for the best outcome.

https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders/ptsd/ptsd-treatments-ptsd-therapy-ptsd-medications-can-help/

PTSD treatments that have been scientifically validated can be very helpful in reducing and/or alleviating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD therapy and PTSD medications are effective treatments for those experiencing this severe anxiety disorder, developed after a traumatic event. For PTSD treatment, these techniques are usually combined for the best outcome (What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]?).

Because many psychiatric illnesses commonly occur alongside PTSD, they may also need treatment. Many people with PTSD also have issues with substance abuse (drug addiction information); in these cases, the substance abuse should be treated before the PTSD. In the cases where depression occurs with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD treatment should be the priority, as PTSD has a different biology and response than depression.1

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur at any age and can be caused by any event or situation the person perceives as traumatic (PTSD in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Effects, Treatments). About 7% – 10% of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives.

PTSD Therapy

Several types of therapy are used in the treatment of PTSD (PTSD Therapy and Its Role in Healing PTSD). The two primary PTSD therapies are:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for PTSD focuses on recognizing thought patterns and then ascertaining and addressing faulty patterns. For example, faulty thought patterns may be causing the individual to inaccurately assess the danger of a situation and thus react to a level of danger that isn’t present. CBT is often used in conjunction with exposure therapy where the person with PTSD is gradually exposed to the feared situation in a safe way. Over time, exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder allows the person to withstand and adjust to the feared stimuli.2

EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a technique that combines exposure and other therapeutic approaches with a series of guided eye movements. This PTSD therapy is designed to stimulate the brain’s information-processing mechanisms in an effort to reprocess the traumatic memories so they can be integrated into the psyche without the associated anxiety. (Watch an interview about EMDR Therapy Self Help Techniques for Trauma Relief)

Other therapy techniques used in PTSD treatment include:

  • Family therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Hypnosis
  • PTSD Support Groups
  • Individual talk therapy – particularly for those with trauma from abuse or from childhood
  • Anxiety management

PTSD Medications

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) medications can often be used to alleviate the physical symptoms of PTSD enough so that PTSD therapy has a chance to work. Several types of PTSD medications are available, although not all are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medications for PTSD include:

  • Antidepressants – several types of antidepressants are prescribed for PTSD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the primary type. SSRIs have been shown to help the symptoms associated with re-experiencing of trauma, avoidance of trauma cues and over-awareness of possible dangers (hyperarousal). Both sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are FDA-approved antidepressant PTSD medications
  • Benzodiazepines – tranquilizers most frequently prescribed for the short-term management of anxiety symptoms. This type of PTSD medication may relieve irritability, sleep disturbances and hyperarousal symptoms. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium).
  • Beta-blockers – may help with symptoms associated with hyperarousal. Propranolol (Inderal, Betachron E-R) is one such drug.
  • Anticonvulsants – anti-seizure medications also prescribed for bipolar disorder. No anticonvulsants are FDA-approved for PTSD treatment; however, those who experience impulsivity or involuntary mood swings (emotional lability) may be prescribed medications such as carbamazepine (Tegretol, Tegretol XR) or lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Atypical antipsychotics – these medications may help those with symptoms around re-experiencing the trauma (flashbacks) or those who have not responded to other treatment. No antipsychotic is FDA-approved in the treatment of PTSD but drugs like resperidone (Risperdal) or olanzapine (Zyprexa) may be prescribed.

Novel pilot studies also suggest that Prazosin (Minipress, an alpha-1 receptor agonist) or Clonidine (Catapres, Catapres-TTS, Duraclon, an antiadrenergic agent) may also be helpful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

article references

Living in PTSD Recovery and the Myth of a Cure

Living in PTSD recovery isn't the same as being cured of the disease. It's important to understand the difference. Take a look at this.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/06/ptsd-recovery-and-the-myth-of-a-cure/

I lived with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for almost 22 years before I received treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. After five years of therapy, I healed enough to consider myself living in PTSD recovery. However, I still have symptoms that require maintenance, depression being the most notable. No magic formula exists to cure PTSD, but I have coping skills to manage my symptoms. Let’s look at the reality of living in PTSD recovery, and the myth of being cured.

Living in PTSD Recovery Is Not Like Being Cured

To the average person, curing an illness means you eliminate it entirely. I once broke my thumb. After a trip to the doctor and a few weeks of medical care, it healed completely. Once cured, my broken thumb was gone. It wasn’t suddenly going to break again on its own. With PTSD, there is no guarantee that once controlled, the symptoms will never return, even if months or years pass between occurrences.

By saying we live in PTSD recovery, we can acknowledge the reality that a mental illness relapse is possible, and the need to practice self-care consistently exists. For myself, this includes taking my medication, keeping my stress levels under control, and avoiding triggers.

I learned the importance of this mindset several years ago. I felt fully healed, so I stopped taking my medications. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, I encountered a particularly challenging trigger. As a result, I relapsed and experienced a dissociative fugue. I had not understood the long-term maintenance needed with PTSD.

Living in PTSD Recovery Symptom-Free

Symptom-free recovery is possible. It doesn’t mean you are done taking care of yourself. Here are some tools that are my essentials for continued PTSD recovery:

My most debilitating PTSD symptoms have been in remission since my fugue. I continue to follow my recovery plan and seek help at the slightest concern of a relapse. While it has been a long stretch of symptom-free recovery, I know my PTSD still exists, and that’s okay. I don’t need a cure. I need to use my resources to stay on track.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you faced roadblocks to recovery? Do you have supports or tools you use to stay on track? Please let me know in the comments below.

What not to say to a combat veteran

 

https://crumilitary.org/what-not-to-say-to-combat-veterans-and-why/

This is a general guideline put together by former Sergeant Andi Westfall, who served with the National Guard as a medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who suffers with PTSD. These tips will be useful when interacting with a veteran and should not be considered absolutely true for every veteran. Each Soldier, Marine, Airman, Sailor or Coast Guardsman who has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Somalia or any other combat theater, has had a different combat experience. How they deal with their experience will vary depending on age, culture, faith, gender, community support, or lack of, and the presence of or lack of a family and/or social support system. A combat veteran is not the same person they were before being deployed to a combat theater and how the civilian population interacts with them can either help or hinder their very difficult transition.

  1. Did you kill any anyone?

    It would seem that common sense would deem this an inappropriate question, however this question is asked a lot. What purpose does this serve the individual asking this question knowing this about the veteran?

  2. What was the nastiest or most disgusting thing you saw over there?

    If the veteran wants to share this kind of detail they might, but ONLY after trust has been established. However, the chance they will want to relive the details of those events, which might be very traumatic, could be slim to none.

  3. Are you glad to be home?

    Consider for a moment what these words could be asking: “Are you glad that you are no longer in a situation where you are getting shot at, missiles being fired at you on a regular basis, the threat of your vehicle being blown up every time you get in it, sand storms and 140 degree temperatures?” It is also important to be aware that the veteran’s homecoming was more traumatic than being at war. Some come home financially desolate because the person they trusted to take care of their finances spent ALL their money. Others come home thinking they will be welcomed by their spouse only to find they have been unfaithful, usually with someone close to them such as a brother and/or best friend, and they are being handed divorce papers. Unfortunately this happens quite often.

  4. How are you doing?

    This question should really only be asked when you are willing to stay and listen to the answer. Most likely the veteran doesn’t know how they are doing and definitely may not know how to express it. It is okay not to know what to do with the answer because there isn’t anything you can say to fix it or make it better. Just being there so the veteran can “debrief” for just a moment can be enough.

  5. Did you see the news…? (And then proceed to go on and share what gruesome thing that has just happened in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, or how many Americans have been killed.)

    The veteran has “lived” the news and doesn’t need to relive it through the present media and certainly does not need to hear about it. The war is very personal to the veteran and most likely they know people still fighting and dying over there.)

  6. Do you feel guilty about what you had to do over there, i.e., kill another human?

    Just about any combat veteran will have some measure of guilt. Those who make it home alive, although grateful, have survivor’s guilt. Those who participated in direct combat had to make decisions that ultimately resulted in taking human life, to include women and children. These individuals generally have tremendous guilt but may not know how to identify it let alone admit it.

  7. Do you want to go get a drink?

    This generally becomes a BIG problem later so do not be the one to help them start self-medicating and on the path to destruction with chemicals. Coffee is a much better addiction and easier to quit.

  8. Do you want me to pray with you?

    This should be automatic. You may not know what to pray for but the Holy Spirit knows what the veteran needs and will direct. And, the veteran may be very angry at God and the last thing they want is to commune with Him. So be discerning: if he/she says no, honor that – and don’t ask “Why not?” unless you have already established a strong relationship of trust.

  9. What do you think about the U.S. being over there and don’t you think we should get out?

    It is not a good idea to get started on the politics concerning the hell they were sent into and have just come out of. Their perspective, because of experience, is going to be very different than the average civilian getting their information from CNN.

  10. What do you think of Obama? Bush?

    Just a good idea to stay away from these types of questions! If they want to talk about it, let them bring it up. But, be prepared to hear a point of view you might not agree with. They have a different perspective because of their experience that has shaped their point of view.

  11. Do you think God could ever forgive you?

    There are people out there who are extremely opposed to the war and blame the military for the destruction and loss of life they see on TV. These individuals seem unable to distinguish between their politics and the individual Soldier. The veteran will have some measure of guilt no matter what their job was, so do not make it worse by helping them along with the notion they can never be forgiven for the things they had to do to protect themselves and their battle buddies.

  12. Did you see any dead bodies?

    Again, if the veteran should want to share this very intimate detail of their deployment they might. However, this may occur after time but be prepared that they just will not share.

  13. Do not tell a veteran that you understand what they are going through and then share a story of when you hit your thumb with a hammer.

    There really is no way to completely understand going to war unless you have also “been there, done that.” There really is no experience you have had that can come close to the stress, terror, guilt and just plain hell of this type of event. However, God can use your trauma to extend compassion and empathy, which does not always require words. You don’t have to understand what they’ve been through, but to recognize this was something incredibly painful for them will show the veteran that you do care.

  14. DO NOT, even in a joking manner, tell a veteran that they should be grateful they made it home alive, they didn’t die “over there” and they need to get “over it” and be happy.

    There is already a VERY good chance that they wished they had been killed in action. Coming home is much more difficult that actually being in combat. The veteran knows what is expected of him or her during the heat of battle. They rely on training and the instinct to survive. There is no training manual for coming home and there is no debriefing that can fully prepare the veteran for how difficult it will be. As a result many desire to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan because they know who they are and how to survive in the civilian world. Then there are those who cannot deal with these pressures and consider suicide as the only option.