Anyone can experience symptoms of PTSD—and if you’re suffering from PTSD, it’s important for you to know: You are absolutely not alone.
The National Center for PTSD recommends that PTSD sufferers Learn, Connect and Share: Learn the facts about PTSD … Connect to a friend, a battle buddy or a teammate by reaching out … Share what you know and have learned. Remember: Remaining connected can mean the difference between struggling and thriving.
WHEN SYMPTOMS PERSIST
Sometimes trauma has lasting effects on the brain and nervous system—these may take months (or even years) to fully manifest as PTSD, affecting the individual, family, community and even the society. For veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, their sacrifice and service may increase their risk.
The repeated and often-overlooked mild traumatic brain injuries suffered in combat can impact the brain’s ability to heal and repair itself. This in turn leads to anxiety, irritability, insomnia and a whole host of symptoms that can lock that individual in that moment of time of their trauma. The persistence of symptoms over time is referred to as PTSD.
UP TO HALF OF ELIGIBLE VETERANS NEVER SEEK TREATMENT
It is vital for those who suffer from PTSD (as well as their family members and friends) to realize that treatment for PTSD works—and is readily available.
An unacceptably large number of veterans are not connected with the VA or with a local therapist. Unfortunately, not all providers are skilled in offering the full repertoire of evidence-based therapies (EBT), so it’s important for service members and families to know and understand that they have choices to make from among several treatment options.
Patient empowerment –exercising that choice—leads to developing a powerful therapeutic relationship that in turn leads to long-term healing.
SIMPLE INTERVENTIONS ARE HELPFUL
For some members struggling with a few symptoms of PTSD, merely correcting common post-combat insomnia can prevent the development and diagnosis of PTSD. Studies have shown exercise to be a powerful—and accessible—way to improve one’s outlook and combat symptoms. On the other hand, the practice of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol destroys normal sleep patterns and prevents recovery.
Since other conditions such as depression and mild TBI may accompany or complicate PTSD, having an honest discussion with a primary care provider about medical history is a critical step on the path to treatment and recovery.
CHECK OUT THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR PTSD
The NCPTSD website has a great many additional resources, real stories of recovery and a free and anonymous online test. As with any website, information is helpful but should never replace further assessment by a knowledgeable medical professional.
Next month’s topic: Post-traumatic growth.
Navy Captain Robert Koffman, M.D., was the Senior Consultant for Integrative Medicine & Behavioral Health at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Maryland. With nearly 2 decades of operational experience as a naval medical officer, Dr. Koffman serves as Medical Director for the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund. Read Dr. Koffman’s complete bio.