How Trauma Affects Veterans and the Hope It Can Be Reversed

Unfortunately we have a great number of veterans who have come back from combat that are not physically injured but are emotionally injured. It is not as obvious as scars or a missing limb, but it is just as, if not more debilitating. When a soldier is in a constant combat situation, never knowing when something really bad is going to happen, he or she experiences a chronic, ongoing trauma. Now this chronic trauma may be sprinkled with acute, one time, traumas such the loss of fellow soldiers or seeing a child killed. So combat soldiers are in a sense, twice traumatized. Add to that any physical injury and you can see why soldiers coming back from war are having such a hard time and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress.

Most people do not realize what the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress are. There is a sense of hyper-vigilance where the veteran is always on the lookout for danger. This causes a rise in anxiety and stress. He or she is always afraid something disastrous will happen and he or she will not be ready for it. PTSD victims also carry a startle response in their bodies. That would mean if they hear a sudden loud noise or even a helicopter, they might jump suddenly and try to take cover. The symptoms get worse from here. A veteran might have sudden flashbacks where he thinks he is back in the traumatic event and might see people he knows today as the enemy or fellow soldiers. The fear that comes with these flashbacks is off the charts. They can be triggered by a sound, a smell, or anything that reminds the vet of the traumatic event. While in the flashback, the vet can become combative as if they are fighting for their lives. Then, one of the most disruptive symptoms is the nightmares. Dreams are our way of processing life. A bad dream ends up going in circles and does not accomplish that end. A nightmare is so full of terror that a person wakes up sweating and in deep fear before the mind can process the trauma. The result is sleep deprivation. There are other symptoms, but these are the major ones I most often see after combat.

PTSD changes one’s behavior as well. Many veterans find themselves self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, trying to run away from their demons. Some end up as rage-aholics and get into fights with bosses, co-workers, spouses and children. They may be unable to connect with loved ones and friends, remaining emotionally distant. They may be plagued with deep depression and anxiety. This makes it difficult to hold down a job.

Talk therapy does not seem to help with PTSD. The traumas need to be processed through by the therapy, not just repeated. There are several fairly new therapies out there; TAT, EMDR, Brain Spotting, The Emotional Code and Gentle Reprocessing to name a few. I can speak for Gentle Reprocessing and know it works quickly, gently, yet deeply to help a veteran let go of his traumas and get his previous life back on course.

 

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