As soldiers continue to come home from conflict abroad, many face fresh troubles associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. People often mistakenly consider PTSD to be a new condition, but it’s not—it’s just a newly named one. In this article we will discuss the history of PTSD. The problem has affected soldiers for as long as there have been wars, but past families often cared for their veterans at home and kept their difficulties out of the limelight.
The role of media and the number of soldiers re-entering society today has led to an increase in the number of visible PTSD cases. PTSD was added to the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. While it is commonly associated with soldiers because of the trauma of war, the condition can affect anyone who is exposed to a traumatic event outside of the normal human experience.(1) Symptoms of PTSD are easily seen in the life histories of soldiers who served in wars throughout history. Similar symptoms were even written about in the Civil War.
Challenges Faced by Modern Vets
PTSD is in the news on a regular basis today because of the vast number of relatively young veterans in the country, combined with the extreme nature of modern warfare. As these veterans return home and try to acclimatize to civilian life, they must learn to leave behind the horrors of war and the mentality that war requires. For some, the terrors they saw and felt on the battlefield are simply too difficult to get away from.
Symptoms of PTSD
In order for someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, they must have had a qualifying trauma, and war is one of those traumas. When the trauma associated with war begins to affect the individual’s day-to-day life, and reactions to triggers and routine stress are intense, it’s likely PTSD. Symptoms of the condition include:(2)
- Intrusive memories of the trauma
- Avoidance of potential triggers
- Negative changes in mood or thoughts
- Intense emotional changes
- New interest in drugs or alcohol
- Self-destructive behavior
- Violent behavior
- Chronic inability to hold a job
These problems do not get better with time. If PTSD is left untreated, the symptoms typically escalate and the individual may lose the ability to function in society.
What to Do When Faced with PTSD
Whether you are facing PTSD yourself or know someone you suspect has the condition, it is crucial to get help, which starts by talking about what is going on. Tell someone you trust about the problem, which is the first step toward getting the right help. Getting help is not a sign of weakness. Having the strength to ask for help is actually the sign of a strong individual who wants to heal and move on with a normal life.
What Treatment Entails
Treatment for PTSD involves nutritional education, psychological counseling, behavioral counseling and social-skills training to help the individual learn how to handle triggers and overcome the problems associated with PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs has also initiated a multi-year study to examine whether service animals may provide relief to those suffering from PTSD.(3) It can take a while, but with the right recovery program, individuals who have suffered trauma can learn to cope with their disorder and move forward with a healthy, fulfilling life.