What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by troublesome symptoms that can develop following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor such as witnessing a fellow soldier being wounded or dying or being involved in a improvised explosive device (IED) incident.
Symptoms may include:
- Flashbacks, nightmares, bad memories, or hallucinations
- Trouble sleeping
- Being irritable, angry, or jumpy
- Not being able to recall parts of the event
- Feeling emotionally numb or detached from the people around you
- Intense distress at reminders of the event; difficulty concentrating
Dealing with a PTSD Diagnosis
If your loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD, there are several things you can do to aid in coping and recovery.
Know that PTSD can happen to anyone who has been exposed to extreme trauma. Know that just as anyone can return from battle with a physical injury, anyone can return from combat with PTSD.
Be patient and understanding. Recovery takes time even with treatment. Be patient and offer a sympathetic ear. A person affected by PTSD may need to talk about traumatic events over and over again. This is part of the healing process.
Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates, people or places associated with trauma, and certain sights, sounds or smells such as the smell of diesel fumes or children playing in the street could take the veteran back to a street in Baghdad before a traumatic event occurred. If you are aware of triggers that may cause an upsetting reaction, you'll be in a better position to offer support and help your loved one through the recovery process.
Don't take the PTSD symptoms personally. Common PTSD symptoms include emotional numbness, anger and withdrawal. If your loved one seems distant or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
Don't pressure your loved one into talking. It's very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Never try to force your loved one to open up. Let the person know, however, that you're there when and if he or she wants.