At least 50% of all adults and children are exposed to a psychologically traumatic event (such as a life-threatening assault or accident, human made or natural disaster, or war). As many as 67% of trauma survivors experience lasting psychosocial impairment, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); panic, phobic, or generalized anxiety disorders; depression; or substance abuse.(Van der Kolk, et al, 1994) Symptoms of PTSD include persistent involuntary re-experiencing of traumatic distress, emotional numbing and detachment from other people, and hyperarousal (irritability, insomnia, fearfulness, nervous agitation). PTSD is linked to structural neuro-chemical changes in the central nervous system which may have a direct biological effect on health, such as vulnerability to hypertension and atherosclerotic heart disease; abnormalities in thyroid and other hormone functions; increased susceptibility to infections and immunologic disorders; and problems with pain perception, pain tolerance, and chronic pain.(Fesler, 1991) PTSD is associated with significant behavioral health risks, including smoking, poor nutrition, conflict or violence in intimate relationships, and anger or hostility.
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Veteran PTSD Etiology
American Veterans experienced war-related trauma in Vietnam.(Friedman, 1998) The war traumas included being on frequent or prolonged combat missions in enemy territory, encountering ambushes and firefights, being attacked by sappers, snipers, artillery or rockets. They witnessed death and terrible harm to their own and others bodies while being under fire on helicopters, cargo and reconnaissance aircraft, and patrol boats. They often were assigned very hazardous duty such as walking point, radio operator, medic, scout, tunnel rat, and sentry or door gunner. Other people—spouses, children, family members, friends, or co-workers—often are more aware of the veteran’s emotional distress than he is himself. (Scurfeild, 1993). Many veterans are unable to leave behind the trauma of Vietnam and psychologically return home. They struggle with a variety of extremely severe problems that neither they nor their families, friends, or communities knew how to understand or cope with. Many of the following symptoms are found in adult sufferers of PTSD whether veterans of war or other forms of PTSD survivors.
- Fears (such as of closed spaces, crowds, unfamiliar places, or sudden attack)
- Anxiety (such as restlessness, obsessive worries, compulsive rituals)
- Panic (such as a terror of losing control, suffocating, or going crazy)
- Depression (such as hopelessness, loss of all interests, or suicidal impulses)
- Rage, in the form of either intense violent emotions and violent actions
- Irritability (such as feeling constantly annoyed, on edge, and critical)
- Shame (such as feeling embarrassed, exposed, violated, or like a misfit)
- Guilt (such as feeling others should have lived and he should have died Isolation (such as being physically present but emotionally absent, or going
- off alone for long periods of time, or refusing to talk about family matters)
- Emotional emptiness (such as staring off into space blankly or refusing to show any feelings when everyone else is very emotional)
- Alienation (such as feeling that no one understands or that everyone makes too
- much fuss about unimportant things and too little about big problems)
- Over controlling (such as being extremely demanding or needing to make all decisions even if they’re really someone else’s responsibility)
- Unable to relax (such as always being on the go, never able to have fun, or making everything into serious work or a crisis)
- Addiction (such as compulsive overuse of alcohol, drugs, or gambling)
The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Unwanted distressing memories or a feeling of reliving (flashbacks) traumatic
- Nightmares and difficulty falling or staying asleep restfully
- Bodily stress and tension, especially when reminded of traumatic experiences
- Loss of interest in activities and difficulty in concentrating on activities or projects
- Detachment or withdrawal from emotional involvement in relationships
- Difficulty feeling or expressing emotions other than irritability or frustration
- Feeling like there is no future or their lives will be cut short by an untimely death
- Feeling jumpy, on-edge, and easily startled
- Feeling constantly unsafe and unable to let down their guard (hyper-vigilant)
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