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A lot of veterans struggle with mental health problems including PTSD. It is undeniably difficult to deal with the symptoms of PTSD, but you can get help and start to feel better today.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after a traumatic event - either witnessing it or experiencing it. Such events cause feelings of helplessness, distress, fear, horror, or stress.
Anyone can be diagnosed with PTSD. Initially, the condition was recognised in war veterans, and was referred to as shell shock, combat stress, or battle fatigue.
PTSD symptoms manifest differently in each veteran. Sometimes, the symptoms may develop in the hours or days after a distressing occurrence. In other cases, it may take months or years before you experience the symptoms. Mostly, the symptoms are intense and consistent to the point that they affect the person’s day-to-day life.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD across the board include;
Relieving the traumatic event.
This may happen through flashbacks, nightmares, upsetting thoughts, and severe distress whenever you encounter a reminder of the event.
PTSD can negatively impact your thoughts and feelings.
You may find it more difficult to connect with anyone, to trust, or feel safe. It’s also not uncommon to grapple with feelings of rage, guilt, isolation, and sadness.
Being over cautious or on guard at all times.
This can manifest through hypervigilance, insomnia, irritability, being easily spooked, and difficulty in concentrating.
Avoiding anything that reminds you of the traumatic event at all costs.
Some people with PTSD may try to cope by ensuring that they are constantly busy, by completely avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of their trauma, or by suppressing all feelings. Sometimes, they may turn to alcohol and drugs to escape the thoughts and numb their feelings.
PTSD may also affect you in other ways such as;
- Difficulty in keeping a job.
- A lower sex drive.
- You may find it harder to adjust and accept change.
- It may be more difficult to nurture friendships or relationships.
How to Get a PTSD Diagnosis.
It is completely normal to feel distressed in the days and weeks following a traumatic event. You may experience some symptoms such as disturbed sleep or feeling numb. However, if these symptoms persist for more than four weeks, or if you’re experiencing particularly aggressive symptoms, you should consult your GP. The GP may then refer you to a specialist who will further assess you and recommend a course of action.
PTSD can be successfully treated through a variety of recommended treatment options. To determine a suitable treatment method, the intensity of your symptoms is considered alongside how long it took for the symptoms to develop after the trauma.
The recommended treatment options for PTSD are;
1. Watchful Waiting.
If you have been experiencing PTSD symptoms for less than a month, or if your symptoms can be considered mild, your GP may recommend Watchful Waiting.
With this technique, you’ll observe your symptoms to determine if you’re getting better or worse before you’re put on any treatment. You can use this approach for about a month after which you’ll need to follow up with your GP.
2. Psychological therapies.
Currently, there are two types of talking treatments available for people with PTSD.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
With this treatment, you allow yourself to revisit emotions and thoughts that remind you of the traumatic experience bit by bit. You can then work on developing a more balanced picture of the occurrence, in the place of any unreasonable and distorted thoughts you may have.
It’s recommended that you visit the same therapist weekly for at least 2 - 3 months. A session may last for an hour to an hour and a half.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This is an interactive psychotherapy technique that can help people overcome the effects of trauma. During an EMDR session, a therapist directs your eye movements while you recall the traumatic event. This can aid your nervous system to become unstuck, and you can deal with emotional processes that have been hindered by the trauma.
If you have depression, or you’re experiencing trouble sleeping due to PTSD, you may be prescribed medication. This may also happen if you don’t want or you’re unable to receive psychological therapy.
The four commonly prescribed antidepressants are paroxetine, mirtazapine, phenelzine, and amitriptyline. It’s important to note that although this medication may alleviate feelings of sadness and worry, it does not treat the causes of PTSD.
UK PTSD Charities and Useful Links.
If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD you can obtain expert help from;
Op Courage: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service
If you reside in the North of England, call 0303 123 1145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re based in the South West of England, call 0300 365 2000 or email email@example.com
If you’re in the Midlands or East of England, call 0300 323 0137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In London or the South East of England, call 020 3317 6818 or email email@example.com
You can call 0300 302 0551
Or contact ptsdresolution.org
EMDR UK and Ireland
If you're still serving, you can call the Military Mental Health Helpline on 0800 323 4444.