Today, there are approximately 22 million U.S. veterans which make up approximately 7% of this country’s population. Just over 9 million of these veterans are over the age of 65, and the largest group of these veterans served during the Vietnam War era.
“I am thankful that the Vietnam war ended before I was eligible for deployment; many of my fellow veterans weren’t as fortunate,” said Marge Robert. “No one can convince me that the trauma of war doesn’t somehow affect each person who has experienced the horrors of combat!”
Between 11-20% of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans and 12% of Gulf War veterans fall victim to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in any given year. It is estimated that about 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
According to the Military Times, 20 veterans commit suicide each day; this is unacceptable!
It was the seriousness of this issue/disorder that prompted the designation of the month of June as PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD.
Although anyone can experience PTSD, those in the military who have experienced active combat are particularly affected. These events expose veterans to horrific and life-threatening experiences which can lead to PTSD. Victims of carjackings, home invasions, sexual assault, car accidents, terrorist events, child abuse, near-death experiences, or violent protests are all susceptible to PTSD. Those of us who haven’t lived through a horrific and/or life threatening experience can’t begin to imagine the depth of the effects that these experiences have on the mind and body.
Many people exposed to these traumatic events experience symptoms of distress such as sleep problems, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and anxiety. Most fully recover in a few weeks or months. Others, however, are unable to put these events behind them.
People with PTSD may become emotionally numb, especially with those whom they used to be close. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy. They may startle easily or be irritable or become aggressive. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and often experience symptoms at the anniversary of the traumatic event.
The symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, confusion, and depression. In cases such as carjackings, home invasions, muggings and rapes, where the incident has been deliberately perpetrated by another person, the symptoms seem to be worse.
Most PTSD sufferers repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares while they sleep. These flashbacks may consist of feelings, images, smells, and sounds. They are often triggered by everyday occurrences such as a door slamming, a car backfiring, or being in a place that looks similar to where the incident occurred.
Not all traumatized persons develop severe or even mild PTSD. Symptoms usually begin within three months of the event, but occasionally may manifest years later. Some people recover within months, while others have symptoms for much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
If you suspect a friend, co-worker, or family member is suffering from PTSD, encourage them to get help.
According to the National Center for PTSD, one of the reasons that veterans give for not getting help is their concern about the side effects of the drugs used for treatment.
The National Center also cited results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication study indicating that 12.6% of persons with PTSD accessed provider-administered complementary-alternative medicine (CAM) such as chiropractic, acupuncture and self-help groups in the past year. They suspect that this is an underestimation of CAM use because the study excluded CAM therapies which were self-administered such as herbs, relaxation techniques and homeopathy.
Although there is not an abundance of research to support the use of CAM for PTSD, there is research to support the use of CAM for the various aspects of PTSD such as anxiety, insomnia, lack of mental focus, and depression.
If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of PTSD and is hesitant to get help because of the side effects of standard medicine, encourage them to explore natural therapies. Investigate mindfulness, meditation, homeopathy, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, yoga and acupuncture. Sometimes pharmaceutical drugs may be needed, even if on a temporary basis.
Whatever the cause, or the reason for not seeking care, be a support and encouragement to those experiencing PTSD. Help them to help themselves.
Marge Roberts, BSN, MSHP, DAHom
President/CEO, Newton Homeopathics/AACH
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