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PTSD Information for Veterans

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A July 2004 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Barriers to Care, Vol. 351, No. 1, suggested that one in six returning veterans fit criteria for symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). Most of you went through an "out-processes" group of examinations to identify problems that might be service-related so that treatment might be provided. However, according to officials with the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA), many veterans do not receive the medical or psychological treatment they desperately need for fear it will negatively impact their military discharge and civilian life. As a result, they are left to struggle with their issues without the support they may need. We offer a support group for veterans to allow them the opportunity to talk to others who have similar challenges. We also wish to provide links and information regarding resources at the university and in the community (both locally and nationally.)

War Zone Stress Reaction & PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disabling disorder that may develop following a traumatic life threatening event. Often, people with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts, memories, and dreams of the terrifying event and feel emotionally distant. Some relatively common symptoms of PTSD include, but are not limited to the following experiences:

  • Recurring and/or intrusive memories and/or dreams/nightmares of the event
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were happening now, or again
  • Intense distress in response to cues resembling some aspect of the event
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations related to the event
  • Feeling detachment or estrangement from others
  • Difficulty falling asleep and sometimes staying asleep
  • Increased irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating or attending to tasks
  • Depression, lethargy, fatigue, social withdrawal, decline in overall pre-combat functioning
  • Generalized or specific anxiety related responses to environmental triggers

If you feel you may be suffering from PTSD, visit these links or speak with a counselor within the Counseling Services or at your local Veterans Administration Hospital.

Due to the type of battle our returning soldiers are experiencing ("close-quarter" fighting, difficulty determining friend from foe, and "dirty bomb" placement along roads and in private residences) we are seeing more war zone stress reactions among returning soldiers. There is no safe place in Iraq, thus there is a constant state of readiness and potential loss of life related to an attack. Our troops cannot relax, but instead experience a constant adrenaline rush. Returning troops talk about feelings of annoyance when in a public place (noises are irritating and the number of people in a crowded restaurant is overwhelming). They may have less patience with family, siblings, or children. They may experience sleep deprivation (related to their stress response) that only amplifies their negative experience. They may even wish for the "excitement" of the battlefield (a confusing experience for someone wishing to experience the calm once associated with stateside experiences). Thus, the returning veteran may be uncomfortable in surroundings once viewed as "home". This is a normal response to the abnormal environment of war.

Panic Attacks

A panic attack involves a sudden and intense fear or discomfort in the absence of real danger. Panic attacks may be unexpected, or brought on by an environmental trigger (a loud bang of a car exhaust). In an unexpected attack, the person experiencing the panic may not be able to link the attack to any trigger. However, sometimes the person experiencing the attack can link the episode to a trigger (a sound, smell, or sight). Common symptoms of panic attacks include the following:

  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Fear of death or losing control, "going crazy"
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath or feeling of suffocation
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling in the fingers and toes

If you are experiencing panic attacks, please visit with a counselor as soon as possible.

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