Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD might seem like a relatively new psychological concept, but the condition has been recognized for a long time. Even the Bible and ancient Greek writings refer to warriors incapacitated by battle without suffering physical wounds. Shakespeare also reports soldiers’ post-battle dreams, and modern scholarship suggests that the Salem “witches” were triggered by the slaughter of colonists and Native Americans alike in the Indian Wars.
More recently, we have heard of World War I veterans stricken with “shell shock,” caused by a shell that exploded near them without inflicting physical wounds, or “battle fatigue,” among earlier names for the disorder. As the explanation notes, the syndrome is not a result of physical injury, although many also have such wounds. Rather, it originates with the terror of battle and seeing one’s fellow soldiers or friends killed or maimed.
Today we call it PTSD and understand how it impacts lives. Today there is treatment for it. Today sufferers, their families and friends are not alone.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD is a mental health condition brought on by a horrifying event, whether the sufferer experiences it personally or sees it affect others. Battle is a common trigger, but so are accidents, sexual abuse, threats or assaults, and other life-shaking events. The signs may begin shortly after the catastrophe or they might not appear for years. Several emotional or physical reactions to events that are reminders. For example:
* Dreams or nightmares
* Severe anxiety attacks
* Recurrent memories of the traumatic occurrence
* Several emotional or physical reactions to that are reminders, for example a combat veteran hearing a car backfire or holiday fireworks.
* Feeling hopeless about the future
* Losing interest in once-favorite hobbies and activities
* Holding negative thoughts about yourself and your world
* Avoiding places that remind you of the tragedy
* Difficulty sustaining relationships
* For children, re-enacting the trauma in play (hitting a doll, for example)
* Trouble sleeping, concentrating, or irritability
Treatment for PTSD
Everyone has these signs and symptoms at times and many are able to adapt. For those whose disability lasts more than a few months or even for years, or that interferes with daily activities, there is help available. The most important thing is to ask.
The treatment options are:
* Talk therapy. One option is the Veterans Administration’s twelve-session program to treat PTSD.
* EMDR, (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) psychotherapy sessions that desensitize and reprogram the patient’s eye movements to reprocess the trauma
* Prolonged exposure cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that confronts the triggering event and helps the patient rethink safe situations they have been avoiding.
Tragically, PTSD can lead not only to a disrupted life but in too many instances, suicide seems like the only solution. Help lines are open all day, every day:
* National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
* Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press "1"
Getting help is vital. Start by reaching out to friends and family members, perhaps to a member of the clergy in a faith community, to the local Veteran’s Agent, or to a nearby VA facility. For more information and links to sources, two federal agencies are ready to help:
The National Veterans Memorial Museum, click link https://nationalvmm.org/ptsd-awareness/
PTSD robs veterans and others of life’s pleasures. A good friend who listens is a fine start, followed by professional care. The sooner the better.
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