PTSD: Knowing what's wrong, getting help
June 14, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Editors note: Information derived from the National Center for Post Traumatic Disorders of the Veterans Affairs and Army Medical Command.
Shell shock. Battle fatigue. Combat stress reaction. Traumatic war neurosis. These are all terms from past wars to describe what is now called post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is defined as a mental health problem that can occur when a person has been through a traumatic event. Those traumatic events can be living through a natural or man-made disaster, sexual or physical assault, terrorist attack, a serious accident or other traumatic events. And for military personnel, PTSD can be the result of combat, whether related to explosions and/or the stresses of combat and constant deployment.
Symptoms of PTSD
Having nightmares or flashbacks of traumatic events, even while awake.
Trying hard not to think about the event or avoiding situations that remind you of it.
Feeling emotionally numb or detached from those around you or your surroundings.
Inability to remember details of the trauma.
Hyper vigilance, constantly on high alert.
Feeling jumpy or easily startled.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms in the past month, you need to seek medical help.
How common is PTSD?
Among civilians, some 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women have suffered at least one traumatic event. Of those, 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women will develop PTSD. In combat, Soldiers suffer significant trauma from blasts, physical injuries, constant stress from fear of attack and witnessing the death of battle buddies. Their instances of PTSD are much higher, reaching almost 80 percent.
Is PTSD related to TBI?
A recent survey from the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation has answered some questions regarding the interaction between PTSD and traumatic brain injury or TBI. They surveyed 52 veterans who served from 2001 to 2008 and found that all of them suffered at least one concussion from explosive blasts. More than 60 percent of them suffered multiple concussions. All 52 had one or more symptoms of chronic combat stress, and 15 of them met the formal criteria for PTSD. The severity of the veteran's PTSD symptoms was directly correlated to the amount of damage seen on brain scans. So it appears that TBI and PTSD are often linked.
Can I tell if I have PTSD?
It is natural for Soldiers to want to know why they are feeling or acting the way they do. But figuring out whether they have PTSD is difficult. Skilled behavioral professionals are best equipped to help Soldiers deal with what they are feeling. The provider must use their training and judgment to test and diagnose the patient's issues and then interpret the results to determine the best treatment. Only trained professionals, such as a doctor or mental health provider should attempt to assess PTSD.
What should I do?
Here are things to do if you believe you have PTSD:
Talk to a battle buddy, a close friend or family member.
Talk to your family doctor.
Talk to a mental health professional.
Talk to a chaplain or minister.
Fill out a PTSD questionnaire.
Above all seek assistance if you are having any feelings that do not seem normal, because it may not be PTSD after all. But you won't know until you ask for help.
Don't be ashamed to ask for help
Soldiers are often reluctant to seek help for PTSD because of the military culture that tells them they have to remain tough no matter what. One in five Soldiers fear what other people would think about them, and one in three Soldiers don't want anyone to know they are in therapy. But seeking help is the only way that PTSD sufferers will get better. Early treatment is the best, because PTSD symptoms can get worse over time. Deal with them now, not later. These symptoms can get in the way of a Soldier's life and cause problems with their families, plus delay recovery from other battle injuries that they may have experienced.
Soldiers at Fort Sill can seek help by contacting Community Behavioral Health Services at 442-4832/4833.