Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs when an individual experiences a traumatic event. Veterans are especially vulnerable to PTSD. How common is PTSD among veterans? According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, here are some of the startling statistics: 10 out of 100 Vietnam vets, 21 out of 100 Persian Gulf War vets, and 29 out of 100 Operation Iraqi Freedom War vets will experience PTSD.
Though life may seem hard for a veteran who struggles with PTSD, God’s faithful love is much stronger than any problem they may face. Isaiah 54:10 (NLT) says, “For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain.”
If you or a loved one is a military vet, here are some signs and symptoms of PTSD to watch out for.
Having recurring bad dreams is often a replay of traumatic events. Nightmares can make it difficult to fall back to sleep. This lack of sleep for a few months or more is severe enough to cause problems at work and home. See a counselor in the New Life Counselor Network to get a diagnosis and plan to treat the PTSD and help with the nightmares.
Being hypervigilant is common among veterans because of long-term exposure to elevated stress levels and specific military training that encourages heightened attention. Suppose a veteran remains on heightened alert for a long time. In that case, they may learn to cope by using unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs, pornography, avoiding others, working too much, or even angry or violent behavior. It’s important to learn relaxation techniques to overcome hypervigilance.
3. Panic Attacks
Veterans have a higher risk for anxiety and panic attacks. Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include a fear of dying, shortness of breath, and tightness of the throat. It’s crucial in a panic attack to ground yourself in the present.
When a panic attack is coming on, try this calming technique:
- Name 5 things you can see.
- Name 4 things you can hear.
- Name 3 things you can feel.
- Name 2 things you can smell.
- Name 1 thing you can taste.
4. Suicidal Ideation
The suicide rate of military veterans is double that of civilians, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. How can you know if someone is suicidal? Ask them. Asking them won’t put the idea in their head. If they are in immediate danger, call 911. If they struggle with suicidal thoughts from time to time, call 988 to speak with a trained counselor at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Finally, help them find a counselor by setting up a counseling appointment—take them to the appointment to make sure they go.
Struggling to cope with trauma may lead military veterans to feel depressed. But thankfully, there are many successful treatments for veterans with depression. Meeting with friends, getting plenty of exercise, and attending a Life Recovery Group can help ease depression. Milder forms of depression can be treated with counseling; in contrast, more severe depression can be overcome with a combination of counseling and medication.
6. Feeling Numb
On the one hand, some veterans who have PTSD may struggle with hypervigilance. But on the other hand, many veterans find themselves emotionally numb. Emotional numbness is a state of being in which one is not feeling or expressing emotions. Veterans may do this to protect themselves from further pain. But to heal, they must allow themselves to feel. Find a therapist to help unpack painful emotions and begin to heal from trauma.
If you or a loved one is a military veteran and is struggling with these or any other symptoms of PTSD, call us at 800-NEW-LIFE to find a counselor who can help.
By Kimberlee Bousman
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