How to Spot PTSD in Returning Veterans

How to Spot PTSD in Returning Veterans

If your loved one returns from combat and you think he has PTSD, get the right treatment as soon as possible

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD defines posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a collection of emotional and physical symptoms that result from exposure to life-threatening or life-altering trauma. Many solders who return from combat suffer from PTSD; the symptoms can begin anytime after combat ends and they tend to worsen the longer the condition goes untreated. There are varying degrees of PTSD, but the need for treatment remains consistent. Get treatment for PTSD as soon as possible to prevent secondary conditions like addiction.

The Basics of PTSD

PTSD is an emotional and physical response to trauma, which can include the following events:

  • Combat
  • Sexual abuse
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Serious accidents, like car accidents
  • The death or illness of a loved one
  • Natural disasters like fires, tornadoes, earthquakes or hurricanes

Traumatic events that lead to PTSD usually include some life-threatening element that brings out extreme responses to protect oneself. Emotional responses to trauma are natural and normal, and they can occur whether they occur even in someone who witnesses a traumatic event. However, when responses to trauma get out of control or cripple your ability to live normally, PTSD might be the cause.

PTSD Symptoms

  • PTSD symptoms vary from person to person, but certain behaviors commonly signal the disorder. If you or a loved one has lived through trauma and you think PTSD is present, then look for one or more of the following symptoms: Reliving the experience, sometimes called flashbacks, can present as bad memories or nightmares where you experience the event over and over
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, which can include people connected to the event
  • Negative changes in feelings or beliefs, which means people who are religious may suddenly stop believing in God, and normally positive people may become bitter
  • Feeling keyed up, which may seem like the jitters or that you are in a state of heightened awareness at all times
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame or despair that are impossible to overcome or explain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Relationship problems—people with PTSD may struggle with family relationships and friendships so much that estrangement and divorce occur

The National Institute of Mental Health points out that it’s natural to feel afraid in a threatening situation, but PTSD damages the natural flight-or-flight instinct. However, treatment for PTSD can help people return to normalcy.

Treatment for PTSD

If your loved one returns from combat and you think she has PTSD, get the right treatment as soon as possible. The symptoms of this condition can lead to secondary problems like drug or alcohol addiction if people abuse drugs for relief. Drugs and alcohol can seem like an escape from trauma, but they only mask PTSD symptoms, and they can actually worsen this already dangerous condition. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for PTSD, because it helps patients recognize the thought patterns that keeping them trapped. However, exposure therapy helps patients face their fears in a controlled way, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has patients move their eyes in certain ways to process traumatic memories and change their future reactions. All of these treatment options offer healing to PTSD.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment is available for PTSD. If your loved one is returning from combat, treatment programs are available to veterans through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Find Help for PTSD

Veterans returning from combat are highly susceptible to PTSD, but you can help your loved one recover by recognizing the disorder’s symptoms and getting treatment in a timely manner. If you think a friend or loved one has this disorder, then call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about treatment.