Story by Sgt. Jon Heinrich, 8th TSC Public Affairs

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - In 2013, Congress declared the month of June as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month in order to help the military and civilian communities learn about the causes, symptoms and effects of PTSD.

Soldiers within the 8th Theater Sustainment Command learned about these through training and practicing restorative yoga June 24 at Schofield Barracks and June 30 at Fort Shafter.

"We all will go through traumatic events during the course of our lives, and they will cause certain physical and emotional responses," said Col. Otto Boneta, the 8th TSC command surgeon. "Overtime, those tend to diminish, but for some people it doesn't.

"If you have PTSD or any other behavioral health issue, it's best to intervene early versus late," Boneta said. "Because the more you wait, the more you start building up and accruing problems and other issues secondary to that problem."

"The term trauma. It just means any really bad experience," said Retired Navy Capt., Dr. Kenneth A. Hirsch, the manager of the Traumatic Stress Recovery Program for the Veteran Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.

"There are four categories of symptoms in PTSD: intrusion, negative alterations, arousal and avoidance," Hirsch said.

Symptoms of intrusions include memories, nightmares, dissociative reactions, intense or prolonged emotional distress after exposure to triggers and marked physiologic reactivity to triggers.

Some negative alterations in thoughts, beliefs and mood include diminished interest in activities, feeling alienated, inability or difficulty feeling positive emotions and inability to recall key features of events.

Arousal symptoms are those similar to always being on guard, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, problems concentrating and irritable or aggressive behavior.

Avoidance can cause those dealing with PTSD to avoid people, places or events that trigger responses similar to those during their traumatic experiences.

Other symptoms Hirsch said that can be present but are not part of the clinical diagnosis are depression, chronic sleep deprivation, substance abuse and moral injury, which is the lasting effects of doing something, failing to do something or witnessing something that constitutes a violation of one's personal moral code or values.

With substance abuse, Hirsch said the cases could be broken into a hierarchy from most to least.

"Alcohol is number one. Caffeine is number two," Hirsch said.

"Caffeine's a mild stimulant," Hirsch added. "Any stimulant increases irritability, anxiety and sleep problems. If you have sleep problems, you also have memory problems."

Following caffeine are prescription pain killers which include opioids and benzodiazepines.

"There's an epidemic of opioid overdoses and deaths," Hirsch said. "Opioids and narcotics are really good for short-term or severe pain. Anything more than 30 days, something's wrong here.

"Narcotics are addictive by definition," Hirsch said. "Because they're addictive, you get tolerant of them. That means you need higher and higher doses for them to be affective."

The Soldiers also went through a restorative yoga class designed to help those with PTSD alleviate symptoms and also help prevent others from getting them.

All in all, the goal of PTSD Awareness Month is to help better educate Soldiers, families and civilians in understanding what those suffering from PTSD go through, a goal which the instructors feel they achieved.