Growing up in Canada, our Veteran’s day goes by a different name: Rememberance Day.
It’s a special Federal and State Holiday that occurs on November 11 every year in the United States in honor of the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, which signaled the end of World War I, known as Armistice Day.
I was born in Puerto Rico, which makes me a duel Citizen, and this means that much of my family who lives in Florida, celebrate this day religiously. This is mostly due to them being a Military family. We’ve lost many close friends and loved ones to recent deployments, and that’s why I think this blog is so important to write.
This blog is for all of those coming back from deployment, and for those who never got to say their goodbyes. It’s for those who haven’t slowed down to think about what War entails and how veterans live when they step back into their regular lives. Unless we’ve lived it, we’ll never know what happens when the uniform comes off and veterans go back to their families or their other jobs.
Let’s get straight to the point. We’re going to touch on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in today’s article. This could trigger some readers, but I’m simply hoping to bring awareness, explain some signs and symptoms, and give you some ideas on how you can help loved ones experiencing PTSD, whether or not they are a veteran.
Thank you, Veterans!
I’d like to honor our military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. I’d also like to thank those who faught for Canada, Great Britain, France, and Australia, as we celebrate Rememberance Day. This day marks the end of World War 1, which ended when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.
Every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery holds an annual memorial service. The cemetery is home to the graves of over 400,000 people, most of whom served in the military.*
Today we celebrate veterans of ALL wars.
We thank you for your service. If you’d like to hear some Veteran’s stories, please go visit History’s website, where you’ll hear from America’s soldiers and wartime workers from World War One to the Iraq War.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”
Although we’re dedicating this article to veterans, it isn’t something that only occurs in those who’ve been in war. Also known as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II, PTSD is common in combat veterans, but can affect anyone who’s experienced trauma.
For example, women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD. Three ethnic groups – U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians – are disproportionately affected and have higher rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites. This is important to bring up, and gives us a better understanding of genders and races that are affected even without having faught in a war.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Those who suffer from PTSD may have intense and disturbing thoughts related to their experience. These thoughts or feelings stay with the individual long after the initial traumatic event has ended. This may mean that they relive the event over and over again, have flashbacks or nightmares, experience sadness, fear, or anger, “sometimes out of nowhere”, and other times they may detach themselves from their reality, by estranging those who love them the most.
Naturally, those who have PTSD will try to avoid anything that brings back any semblance of the traumatic event they endured. For example, those who have come back from war may avoid loud noises, like concerts, or motorcycles. Some may even avoid being touched, especially in the case of those who were sexually or physically abused.
Those suffering from PTSD will fall into 4 different categories:
Intrusion: involuntary memories, distressing dreams, flashbacks of a traumatic event, to the point where you feel you are physically there again.
Avoidance: Avoiding places, activities, people, objects that trigger distressing memories.
Alterations in cognition & mood: Selective memory. Only remembering important aspects of an event, associating traumatic events with negative throughts about oneself (“no one can ever be trusted”, “I’m guilty”). Wrongly blaming oneself, an ongoing sense of fear, anger, guilt, and shame. This could eventually lead to estranging loved ones so that they don’t always see you like this.
Alterations in arousal & reactivity: Irritability, angry outbursts, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, paranoia, esily startled, having trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Diagnosis isn’t very difficult for PTSD. If you go into a therapist or mental health professional, they are trained to recognize the 4 different categories above, and can therefor diagnose and hopefully help treat you or your loved one’s PTSD.
Individuals tend to develop symptoms of PTSD within 3 months of the initial trauma. That being said, these symptoms can last months and sometimes years if left untreated. When left untreated, it is common to see these individuals self-medicate with substances such as alcohol and drugs. They may also to develop depression, memory problems, and other physical or mental health issues.
Treating and helping those with PTSD
There’s a way to help! Whether you are the one suffering with PTSD or you are helping a loved one, you are not alone, and you are certainly not doomed to live with this forever.
Here are just a few treatments that could help someone suffering with PTSD:
- Exposure therapy: Helping the individual face their fear by exposing them to the trauma memory in a safe environment. This can happen through mental imagery, writing, or even virtual reality. Exposure over a certain period of time can help the individual become less sensitive to the trigger over time.
- Cognitive Restructing: Helping the individual make sense of bad memories. Getting them to remember the event accurately, bringing up certain parts their memory has forgotten, and to give them a realistic perspective of their trauma.
- Specific Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Also known as CBT, this type of therapy can get really specific for those suffering with PTSD. Therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, and Stress Inoculation Training have all been used to treat PTSD.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Present Centered Therapy.
- Medication: SSRIs or experimental, used as an adjunct to one of the therapies above.
If you’re having trouble finding the help you or your loved ones need, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America can help you out. Here, they’ve got resources for Veterans and Military families (from professionals, to webinars, to community resources).
When veterans come back from a war, they may not show all the signs and symptoms of PTSD, but it is common for them to pop up a few weeks or months later. An estimated 700,000 Vietnam veterans—almost 25% of those who served in the war—have required some form of psychological care for the delayed effects of combat exposure.* This doesn’t factor in all those that go misdiagnosed and have a dependency on drugs, alcohol, and more.
This Veteran’s Day, take care of those who have faught for your country. Take care of your neighbors, your family, your friends, your mail-person, and the grocery clerk. You never know what someone is going through, and the simplest thing can help reignite trust, love, and care in a stranger.
Every Veteran’s Day, I salute my cousin, who served in Afghanistan and passed away in 2017 with 3 Purple Hearts. He was taken too soon, and he will always be remembered. Who will you remember? If not a specific person, what will you do on November 11th to honor those around you?