Battling war is something a Veteran knows all too well, but battling the demons in their mind after the war is something that they have to learn how to cope with. One of the most mentioned issues that Veterans face today is a disorder called combat post-traumatic stress disorder. Combat PTSD can easily be defined as a disorder that affects the mental state of the armed forces service member that has been through a difficult or shocking experience during their time served in the military. Experiencing war is not something that everyone can relate to, but it is something that can affect a Veteran, as well as their family and friends. Everyday Americans praise the men and women of our country that put their lives on the line, fighting for our country’s freedom. The least that can be done in return is to support our Veterans, and raise awareness within America’s society concerning the aftermath that a war takes on Veterans.
There are those that have no idea of what Veterans face after their time has been served, nor what the families face alongside their Veterans. Within this research paper, information will be provided to help raise awareness throughout society, and also educate society on how combat PTSD is being coped with. Coping with combat PTSD can be difficult since Veterans have to cope with or without medication, and their loved ones have to learn how to cope with their combat PTSD as well.
As more detail will be explained throughout this paper, it should be known that June is PTSD Awareness Month. For those of you who have little to no knowledge on PTSD, please take this opportunity to educate yourselves. Combat PTSD affect each differently, but the symptoms revolve around three main areas (Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs, 2007, p. 2). Any reminder a Veteran may have of the trauma can cause him or her to become upset. An excellent example of this would be going to a movie theater and watching a film that is war related. Not only is the Veteran in a dark area, but all the memories come flooding back to the moment they were in a combat situation. Another form of symptom that comes from combat PTSD is withdrawal from people or places that might remind the Veteran of trauma they experienced. This can cause a series of problems in regard to the Veteran’s loved ones, causing the loved ones to feel as though they are being closed off from their Veteran. The most rising concern with this particular symptom is how it can lead to isolation of the Veteran.
If a Veteran displays signs of separation, one of the most important remedies is forcing themselves to be around a positive support system. The last of the three main symptoms of combat PTSD is a Veteran being easily startled, always being on guard, and irritability. Have you ever stood behind the door while waiting for a friend to enter the room, waiting to jump out and say “boo”, or have you been on the receiving end of this scenario when you were a child? Imagine that little skip of a beat you experience in your chest and greatly intensify that feeling. A Veteran suffering from combat post-traumatic stress disorder can experience that feeling of being frightened over the simplest thing, thus causing an increase in their anxiety level. There was once a man that suffered from PTSD so badly that his fiancé could not walk up behind him without announcing herself. Any time that she had done so, it had invoked irritability from her loved one causing him to become angry.
As these symptoms are displayed, not only does the Veteran themselves have to deal with what they are experiencing, so does their loved ones and their friends. The support system surrounding a Veteran with combat PTSD must also learn how to cope with all these symptoms to help avoid intensifying the symptoms. As the issues become more frequent the Veteran comes to a point where they react one of several ways such as denial that there is a problem, thus realizing that the symptoms could lead to a diagnosis of combat PTSD, coming to the conclusion that they need help, and all the while trying to grasp how to cope with all of it is added issues. Not just for themselves, but for everyone around them.
We all have those in our lives that we care for very dearly, we choose to endure a lot for those we love, and learning to cope with a loved one that is a Veteran suffering from combat post-traumatic stress disorder is not always an easy task. While Veteran’s loved ones learn to cope with the symptoms being displayed, encouragement and positivity are key factors for providing a sufficient foundation for the Veteran to start building back up on. Husbands, wives, children, siblings, parents, other close kin, and friends of Veterans have to learn how to work together in order to cope successfully with the way their Veteran is being affected by their PTSD. According to Tull (2014), it is advised “The first step in living with and helping a loved one with PTSD is learning about the symptoms of PTSD and understanding how these traits may influence behavior” (p.3).
The thought comes to mind that the more knowledge a person has about a topic, the better they can understand it as well accept it. There are many loved ones that expect for their Veteran to come home from deployment to be the same person they had been before they left, and, unfortunately, that does not always happen. Raising awareness across communities will only benefit society to having a better understanding of what combat PTSD is, what Veterans and their families are up against, and help bring support from society as a whole (not just those directly affected by combat PTSD). Have you ever heard the terminology “knowledge is power”? Well, this is a prime example of that statement, and our nation needs to be filled with more supporters of our Veterans. They made a choice to put their lives on the line to serve our country, the least the civilians of our nation could do is educate themselves, educate families and children, and teach friends on the subject of supporting all of our Veterans.
Statistics state that there were over 2.3 million American veterans that derived out of the Afghanistan and Iraq war. The percent of those Veterans that are suffering from PTSD (and/or depression) is 20%, and out of that 20% there is only half of those Veterans that seek treatment (Veterans and PTSD, 2012-2013, p. 4). With only half of the Veterans that are suffering are seeking a resolution for the diagnosis of combat post-traumatic stress disorder, maybe a rise in awareness and support could help encourage those going untreated to seek help.
During the past few years, there have been times of sitting in PTSD group therapy sessions where Veterans have stated they were convinced to try medications to help them cope with their symptoms. All the same, there are Veterans that refuse to use medications. Once, the question was brought up about what was the deciding factor in whether or not to be medicated in order to help the Veteran cope with their issues they were facing. Most of the Veterans in the group stated that a mutual agreement was made with their loved ones, as well as their psychiatrist; other Veterans expressed how utterly opposed to the idea that they were, as well as their loved ones. Sitting in the rooms, time after time, a thought came to my mind and I couldn’t resist the urge to stand up and be heard. I approached a weekly PTSD group therapy class with my theory of why it is psychiatrist believe everything can be resolved by just taking a pill. Unfortunately, that is not the case all the time, and medicating to cope with the issue may be a temporary cover-up, but who wants a Band-Aid over mental and physical battle wounds?
A young United States Marine stood up and very excitingly blurted out, “Thank you very much, Heather. Could you please come say that to my ‘pill pusher’s’ face”? The young man apparently agree with me wholeheartedly, and it began to make sense that these Veterans do not want a temporary fix. They and their loved ones want to get to the core of their combat PTSD to better overcome their symptoms, and work to get back to what they refer to as “normal life” for them and those surrounding them. Through personal experience and conversations with others that suffer with PTSD, the most brought up with being placed on medications were the side effects. There have been side effects of increased suicidal tendencies, increasing depression, and the overall alteration of the person’s mind. These issues are key factors as to why Veterans have chosen not to be medicated while coping with the symptoms of combat PTSD. The 20% of Veterans that do suffer from combat PTSD, as well as their loved ones, they just want to cope with these issues since they have such a significant impact on their lives. Spreading awareness and supporting their fight after the war is just as important as supporting our nation’s troops while they are deployed.
Have you ever had an experience in your life that left you with nightmares, caused anxiety, or that has raised your stress level so high that you feel as though you could lose control? Imagine facing that moment over and over in your mind, but not knowing how to cope with it. Every day, thousands of Veterans are faced with suffering from the symptoms of combat post-traumatic stress disorder, and learning how to cope with their disorder can be a difficult task to accomplish. Their families and friends are right by their side, supporting them and wondering how they can help them, and at the same time they are learning how to cope with the situation as well. America’s heroes have done their time during the war and continue to do their time battling the war that is not in front of them- but inside of them. Each and every Veteran, as well as their loved ones, face the symptoms recognize the possibility needing help.
All involved have come to a decision what they do to copes successfully and tries to continue on with their lives. Some have had to face coping with this condition by being medicated while others can manage to cope without it- either way they all carry the mental scars, and all deserve the support of every single citizen of The United States of America. Do you have a friend, family member, or loved one that suffers from combat post-traumatic stress disorder? If so, please continue to support your Veteran, and provide positivity as well as acceptance of the fact that their lives have been forever changed because they fought for American’s lives and freedom. If not, the time is now for each and every one of us to become aware of the daily battles that are by the men and women that have put their lives on the line for the country we call home.
Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs. (2007). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What is PTSD? Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.ne.gov/what-is-ptsd.html Tull, Matthew. (2014). Coping with PTSD in Family Members: Understanding a Loved One’s PTSD. Retrieved from http://ptsd.about.com/od/infoforfriendsfamily/a/PTSDfamily.htm Veterans and PTSD. (2012-2013). Veteran’s Statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, and Suicide. Retrieved from http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html
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