Troops, Trauma and Treatment!
With the passing of Memorial Day just a few days ago I thought it important to take a moment and remember all of those brave men and women who have served, especially those who have shown the ultimate expression of love which is laying down one’s life for another. The fact that I can freely express my thoughts in this blog while living in a our free country is all because of those who have fought and died to protect the freedom so many us take for granted. I have always tried to “give back” to veterans in the way that I can which is to help them with any emotional and relational challenges they face. We know that many veterans are coming home from experiences in war with the signs and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or what is more commonly known as PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD are listed below:
Reliving the event. Reliving the event can be triggered in many different ways. Hearing a car backfire, for example, can trigger a traumatic event. Watching a movie or TV show with a scene can act as a trauma trigger. Even smells can trigger traumatic events from one’s past. Those suffering with PTSD also relive the trauma in flashbacks and nightmares. When a person with trauma relives the event they are often filled with the same sense of fear as when the actual event took place. It can be years since the event but it feels like it is happening right now or that it could happen.
Avoidance of places, people, or situations that remind you of the event. I remember working with a first responder to the 9/11 attacks who would avoid high rise buildings and going into downtown Phoenix as much as possible. Even walking into my small office building would increase his anxiety. He always needed to know where the exits were in the building in the event he had to quickly escape.
Feeling numb. Those who suffer with PTSD often talk about feeling closed off, shut down, or numb. The emotions they tend to experience are anger and anxiety/fear, but they find it difficult to express other emotions. They may pull away from others and no longer find pleasure in activities that previously brought them joy or excitement. Feeling numb is often a way of coping with the trauma and the difficult feelings a person experiences while suffering from PTSD.
Feeling on-edge. On the opposite end of the spectrum is feeling highly anxious and constantly assessing for danger signs or cues in the environment. It is like the survival mechanism is stuck in overdrive. You may startle easy and go into fight or flight without any real provocation. You may react with anger and defensiveness, be irritable, or have difficulty sleeping and concentrating. All of this results from an overactive fear/survival response.
The good news is that there is help for our veterans and for others who suffer with PTSD. One of the most effective treatments for PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing or EMDR for short. EMDR is recognized worldwide as one of the most effective treatments for PTSD and trauma. Essentially EMDR helps trauma victims to move from a place of emotional distress to a peaceful resolution by reprocessing the traumatic event in a constructive and self-healing way.
If you are a veteran or if someone you love is suffering from PTSD and trauma please know that there is help. PTSD does not mean you are weak. It is the normal human response that anyone would have in response to a traumatic and life threatening situation. You do not have to live in fear and pain. There are counselors who care and who have the expertise and experience to help you. The first step is to reach out ask for help. It takes more courage to do this then it does to live in silence, pain, and isolation.
Finally, I want to reiterate my gratitude for all of those who have served. We offer counseling to veterans in our Phoenix and Scottsdale locations all the time and try to give back by offering the best care and competitive prices. If you ready to work on your life or relationship then know that we are here for you. Call us at 623-680-3486 for PTSD, trauma counseling, or EMDR. Or visit our trauma page by clicking here.