Post traumatic stress disorder is not one thing. Some symptoms seem to be experienced universally by those with PTSD. Other symptoms are unique to the individual. In all cases, post traumatic stress disorder is the result of some experience that has caused injury, mental or physical, to the person. While no case is typical, there are groups of people more likely to develop this condition.
People shown to experience PTSD more frequently are members of the armed forces. A look at the statistics of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines returning from combat paint a grim picture. Often, during a combat deployment, these troops witness savagery. They watch helplessly while their brothers-in-arms are killed. At times, their job will require they take another human life in the interest of protecting themselves and other service members. While all of the troops who find themselves deployed to hostile war-torn enemy territory have been trained tactically, physically and mentally, there is no training to prepare young soldiers for the realities of having to kill. They know how to kill, they just aren’t sure what to do with how it feels to kill. Even troops who have been hardened by previous deployments may find themselves unable to cope with the violence again and again. Repeated exposure to the deadly conditions of war in no way provides immunization to troops deployed in multiple campaigns. If anything, it will often cause the soldier to push down their feelings, ignoring any warning signs and allowing the fear and anger to fester and grow. It is inevitable that such things cannot be kept locked away forever. When there is no room left to shove feelings back, they will surface. In an instant, a seemingly well-adjusted soldier, a war veteran with an excellent record, appears to explode in rage. Of course, the reality is never as it appears to be. The explosion was anything but sudden. It was the result of a slow build, ingredients blended together over time. Sometimes, the explosion is volcanic in nature. It spews hot ash and lava, damaging anything in its path. Other times, the explosion can be seen coming from far off, such as a tsunami aiming its wrath towards the shore. Tsunami explosions give a warning to those nearby, yet no one can be sure how fast it will approach or what the degree of damage it will cause. The military has made a few strides towards proper treatment of soldiers with PTSD. Treatment is available for post 9/11 veterans. However, more needs to be done. Soldiers still hesitate to seek assistance. Despite growing acceptance and the realization that troops are impacted by their war experiences, the stigma exists that soldiers who admit PTSD are too mentally unstable to continue their service. It is that outcome that prevents a vast majority of affected military members from seeking help. The fear of being discharged and losing the career they have worked so hard to achieve is more than most soldiers can bear.
Also at high risk of PTSD are victims of violent crimes. A home invasion may trigger PTSD, as well. Cases involving violent crime develop post traumatic stress disorder because their lives feel invaded by the criminal. Violence against a person’s body or invasion into their private space leaves the victim feeling vulnerable to another attack. Often, these PTSD sufferers experience nightmares, panic attacks and hypervigilance during sleep, when even the softest noise will jolt the person awake instantly. Post traumatic stress disorder doesn’t always follow such violent experiences, but knowing what symptoms to watch for is helpful.
The truth is, a person’s life can be overwhelmed by the consequences of post traumatic stress disorder. The latest statistics suggest around 8% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime. The most common symptoms include inability to sleep well, nightmares, being withdrawn, drinking excessively, using drugs improperly, sudden anger, being unable to concentrate or remember simple things, withdrawing from activities once enjoyed, and distancing oneself from family and friends. These are not all of the possible symptoms, and not everyone with PTSD will demonstrate every symptom listed. However, if someone has experienced trauma, followed by a change in personality, being evaluated by a qualified psychotherapist can make dealing with PTSD more manageable.
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