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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman once said, “War is Hell.” Anyone who has been involved in any sort of military combat situation will heartily agree with the esteemed general. Throughout myriad wars, it has been documented again and again that war-related combat takes a toll on not only the physical body but also the mental health of those who participate.

Since the years after the Vietnam War, the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (or Disorder)” has been used to describe the mental disorder exhibited post-war by those who have fought in a military conflict. Every soldier in every branch of the military is susceptible to this disorder, including Navy Veterans who were entrenched in the thick of combat, whether on land or aboard a ship.

What Is It?

Most experts describe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a type of anxiety disorder that is triggered by traumatic events. It generally develops after an individual experiences an event that causes great fear, horror, and a feeling of helplessness.

War veterans who were involved in combat scenarios can often picture particularly terrible scenes from the war as much as months and years after they occur, causing great stress and anxiety. For some, these post-traumatic thoughts may disappear after a few months. For other individuals, however, their time at war impacts their life and never truly leaves their thoughts.

While the syndrome is most common among those who have served in combat, navy veterans and other members of the armed forces aren’t the only ones who might experience PTSD. Witnesses of man-made or natural disasters, like a terrible fire, a serious car accident, an earthquake, or the Sept. 11 bombings, might also be victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Those who were victims of rape or some other sort of physical attack may also develop the disorder

Symptoms

Experts note that symptoms and signs of PTSD generally begin within about three months of the traumatic experience. Symptoms of the disorder might include:

  • Flashbacks that cause the victim to relive the traumatic event (most common)
  • Upsetting dreams about the event.
  • Refusal to talk about the war/event
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Memory problems
  • Anger and irritability
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Being easily startled
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not present
Not everyone will exhibit all these symptoms, but if one or two of them are severe and interfering with a normal life, chances are that the victim is indeed experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Getting Help

If you or someone you love is coping with the traumatic effects of war and combat, it’s best to understand that the sooner the victim gets help, the better the chance for a full recovery.

A mental health professional can diagnosis the disorder usually by merely talking to the patient and discussing his/her symptoms. Once a diagnosis is ascertained, treatment usually involves both psychotherapy and medication.

Common drugs used in the treatment of PTSD include anti-anxiety medications as well as drugs such as Prazosin, which can help control disturbing nightmares. Forms of psychotherapy used with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome Patients, including Navy Veterans, are Cognitive or “Talk” Therapy; Exposure Therapy, which allows the patient to safely confront the traumatic situation; or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a popular therapy that uses guided eye movements to process traumatic thoughts.

Navy veterans experiencing PTSD should contact the Veterans Administration (VA) to learn how the organization can help with treatment for the disorder or for more information on securing disability compensation.

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