How to Combat Trauma and PTSD in Military Veterans
Most people that experience trauma probably experience it when they’re younger, when there’s some kind of abuse when they’re children, and it gets stuffed deep down and it starts coming up and it impacts them as people grow up and get older. In the case of military veterans, in many cases, trauma comes from combat, and the things that they have seen in combat themselves.
Suicide is a huge problem in the veteran community. Taking a look at the numbers of how many people were lost in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to how many suicides happened since those wars started, there have been seven to eight times more suicides compared to combat fatalities.
Increased Awareness of Mental Health Issues
One of the biggest reasons why the suicide problem exists is lack of awareness by the veteran population or in that regard anyone who’s having any kind of mental health issues. There is a lack of awareness of signs and symptoms of when it is time to take care of what’s going on in your mind. Unfortunately, the impact of neglecting mental health happens so slowly and over time that you don’t notice your life falling apart until you find yourself at the bar at the rock bottom with addiction. All of your relationships are broken and by the time you realize that there’s a problem it’s sometimes too late.
We should talk more about these issues so that other people can recognize the signs and symptoms in themselves or their loved ones. It is important to raise awareness so people catch themselves before they hit the rock bottom because the sooner you address these issues the easier it is to overcome them.
In general, people are more aware of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) now, and the U.S government is trying to address these issues by providing more education and support. However unless it affects someone personally, they are completely unaware of how to take advantage of those support systems. This problem is amplified in the Armed Forces where they are expected to be physically and mentally tough. There is a lot of stigma attached to appearing weak or vulnerable, especially in men who take pride in appearing strong. There is also stigma associated with mental health treatment, which is why it is important to continue conversations to increase awareness.
Signs and Symptoms of Trauma and PTSD
Many people mistakenly think that PTSD looks like waking up from nightmares screaming. However, trauma, PTSD and traumatic brain injury can manifest in many forms, and in several signs and symptoms.
Some common signs you may not recognize as trauma:
Anger may be a red flag that is not often recognized or associated with trauma. It can manifest in road rages, bar fights, family relationships and work situations. The inability to manage anger could be a potential sign indicating mental health issues.
Stress is one of the words in the acronym for PTSD, a condition that is defined by the stress of experiencing a terrifying event, and being triggered by it in flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety. Stress can manifest in the form of anger, anxiety and the inability to handle daily life situations.
Sleeplessness, insomnia and other sleep disorders are a common occurrence in people who are suffering from trauma and PTSD. Lack of sleep can then lead to other mental and behavioral issues that end up affecting other areas of life.
Many veterans start using substances to cope with their anger, stress and anxiety, and eventually become dependent on the substance. Very often, veterans suffering from addiction do so quietly and in desperation.
Thinking suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide is not uncommon in trauma and PTSD patients. It is not often obvious to the people around them but seeking help immediately is imperative in this case. There are suicide hotlines, and crisis management hotlines that can help.
Treatment for Trauma and PTSD
- Therapy is by far the most important and effective treatment, especially as a first step. Talk therapy, combined with other evidence-based modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) have been shown to be helpful.
- Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may sometimes be prescribed but it is best to use them in the short term in order to avoid other complications that could arise from long term use.
- Stellate Ganglion Block procedure, which is an injection to the amygdala is a relatively new experimental procedure that may be effective in providing relief from stress and tension in some people.
While there are many other forms of treatments such as ketamine treatment, Ayahuasca psilocybin treatment, ketamine treatment, somatic experiencing, and various others, it is best to work together with your doctor to find the right approach for you.
Self Care and Wellbeing
Treatment can provide relief from the effects of PTSD and trauma, but for the long term well being, physical, mental and soul level self care cannot be denied. Each person can experiment and develop their own self care tool kit of things and ideas that can help them recover and stay healthy.
Here are some ideas:
- Physical exercise such as running, workouts, or even walking and yoga
- Finding your tribe, whether it’s Jiu Jitsu, or skydiving, or a veteran community
- Nutritious diet, since we feel the way we eat and what we put into our body
- Journaling can be a great way to process your unconscious mental patterns
- Track progress, not perfection. Every little thing can mean a little more progress
The importance of small things cannot be overstated in one’s journey to recovery, and then to stay sober and healthy. Do the small things and you will see change, you will see progress.