Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as PTSD) is an anxiety disorder brought about by severely traumatic events. A veteran may be diagnosed with PTSD when they’ve been exposed to a traumatic event such as witnessing actual or near death situations, the loss of someone close to them, significant threats to their own or another’s life. Other events that could induce intense fear, helplessness and horror can also lead to PTSD. However, PTSD is not limited to those who have been in military combat and can occur in anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic situation.
Not every person who experiences trauma is guaranteed to develop an ongoing case of PTSD. Symptoms may also not manifest until months after the incident. To be considered an official diagnosis of PTSD, the symptoms must last for more than a month and be considered severe enough to interfere with relationships, work, and life in general. The duration of this condition also varies from person depending on their body chemistry and whether they receive adequate treatment. Some people may recover in a matter of months, others a matter of years.
- An estimated 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
- Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD (10.4% compared to 5%).
- 3.6% of U.S. adults aged 18-54 (roughly 8 million) have PTSD during any given year.
- The traumatic events most often associated with PTSD for men are combat exposure, childhood neglect, and childhood physical abuse.
- Depression and PTSD are the most common mental health problems experienced by returning soldiers.
- 30% of soldiers develop mental issues within three to four months of returning home.
- Between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom operations have PTSD in a given year.
- Roughly 12% of veterans who served in the Gulf War have PTSD in a given year.
- Roughly 15% of returning Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD on the return home, and it is estimated that 30% have had it in their lifetime.
- Among older male combat veterans and ex-POWs of WWII and Korea, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 53%, and the prevalence of current PTSD was 29%.
Veterans with PTSD: How it can affect your loved ones
When experiencing a physical manifestation of PTSD, they may experience confusion, sweating, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or difficulty concentrating. This could also manifest itself with difficulty sleeping or night terrors, where they feel trapped or unable to move as the experience is re-lived in their brain. An internal or external cue such as a feeling, thought, smell, sight, or sound could set this episode off, so it’s important to monitor your veteran and reduce the likelihood of such triggers occurring. For example, you could block violent television shows from showing on their television, insulate their walls so they are not disturbed by sudden sounds from outside, and avoid activities and places that remind them of their experience.
People living with PTSD often experience recurring and intrusive thoughts related to the event. This could manifest itself in dreams about the experience, daytime thoughts and associations with the event, and even flashbacks from time to time. If your veteran ever appears mentally distant or perhaps is displaying physical symptoms of PTSD, they may be reliving the experience. When this occurs periodically, a veteran may begin to feel stressed out about avoiding trigger situations, or they may feel inadequate for being unable to shake their trauma. However, no person with PTSD should feel shame about their body’s natural response to a traumatic event. With proper counseling, CBT, and exposure therapy, recovery is possible.
A veteran may feel intense distress when exposed to specific stimuli. Other times, they may display a lack of engagement during essential activities, feelings of detachment or estrangement, and limited ability to show affection. Emotionally, they may also feel hopeless about the future, pessimistic about career prospects and relationships, or just overall negative feelings. Some symptoms of PTSD also may manifest themselves in heightened feelings of alertness, known as hyper-vigilance.
Tips for Taking Care of Veterans with PTSD
Learn what you can about PTSD by doing online research. There are databases available with information on symptoms, proper care techniques, and causes you can donate to. You can also visit American Legion, VFW, and other Veteran posts to talk with actual veterans about coping with PTSD.
Talk with your veteran about possibly seeking the assistance of a mental health professional. Veterans Affairs has proven treatment methods to help veterans manage their symptoms for all types of environments. No matter their decision, you should continue to support and encourage your veteran in a positive manner.
If you are worried about the mental stability or physical safety of your veteran, you may need to consider either finding a home caregiver or admitting your veteran to a senior home with the right amenities and services to address their PTSD.
Understand that PTSD can leave your veteran feeling as though the world is fundamentally unsafe to be in. PTSD alters the way people react to the world around them. You need to view PTSD as a wartime injury, not something that can simply be turned on and off.
If you feel as though your veteran may be self-medicating to treat symptoms of PTSD, do not hesitate to sit down and have a frank discussion about the harmful side effects that could occur. Drugs and alcohol typically exacerbate symptoms of mental health problems in the long run, and with older veterans with PTSD, these could also usher in early onset dementia.
Organizations and Resources to Help Veterans Suffering from PTSD
- VA Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255
- VA Vet Center Program http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/
This program offers different services for veterans and families of veterans, with 300 community locations across the United States.
- PTSD Foundation of America www.ptsdusa.org 877-717-7873
The PTSD Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping combat veterans and their families cope with the realities of PTSD.
- Department of Defense’s Center of Excellence 24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury 1-866-966-1020
- Warrior Care Network Wounded Warrior Project: Warrior Care Network This collaboration between Wounded Warrior Project and its academic medical partners connects Veterans living with PTSD, TBI, and other related conditions to clinical services.
At Landmark Senior Living, we care about those who served our country and those who continue to do so. That’s why we’re unveiling a new campaign to help senior veterans and their spouses unlock the benefits available to them through the Aid and Attendance Program offered by the VA. If you’re looking for assisted living benefits for Veterans, visit Landmark Senior Living in Fall River.