Veterans Aware: PTSD primer

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — I work for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Readjustment Counseling Service at the St. George Vet Center. I work with veterans who have been deployed in areas of active American combat operations, veterans who have traumatic brain injuries, or TBI, people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and folks who have experienced any variety of service-connected traumatic experience that has left them disabled emotionally or physically.

I am also a combat veteran rated at 70 percent disability because of PTSD who went back to graduate school after serious treatment to become a psychotherapist and work with other combat veterans.

PTSD has been documented clear back to the times of the Roman Empire but more recently in the Civil War it was called “Soldiers Heart,” in WWI “Shell Shock,” in WWII “Battle Fatigue,” and since Vietnam “PTSD.”

The gateway experience is identified as exposure to catastrophic circumstances, incidents or actions which cause an individual to experience that their death or catastrophic injury is imminent, very likely to occur or narrowly escaped.

Other stimuli such as witnessing mayhem, extreme violence, physical abuse or incessant threat can also produce PTSD.

To the best of my own experience and those I work with, PTSD is not curable but is definitely manageable.

Combat veterans and folks who have experienced severe traumatic experiences are no longer able to drift through life thinking that bad things could happen; they know that bad things do happen.

Those that have experienced assault, automobile accidents, witnessed catastrophe or witnessed violence and mayhem are forever left with a propensity to look for circumstances or situations that could put those experiences into play.

Combat veterans know that there are people, activities and strategies already in play that will kill, maim or ruin your life without warning.

People who have suffered traumatic experiences respond to specific situations and circumstances that are threatening and could cause another traumatic event; combat veterans never stop doing threat assessments because they know that anything can happen at any time.

Another observation I have made: Knowing that Joe and Jane Average-Citizen does not live with the knowledge that life is always dangerous all of the time, a combat veteran is always responsible for all of the Joes and Janes in his immediate proximity. The vet hasn’t been told this, Joe and Jane haven’t been told this, and the vet just does it because he has been trained to be ever-conscious of threat and to be ready to defeat it. Hence, the more Joes and Janes in the immediate proximity the more vigilant and less “social” the veteran becomes.

So, how do we teach those who have PTSD to manage it since we can’t cure it? Get very mindful of themselves; their heart rate, their breathing, their emotional state, determine what has “triggered” them and then deal with it using reason and rationality. Sound easy? It only takes about three months of weekly sessions.

Bruce C. Solomon is a readjustment counselor with the St. George Vet Center. Opinions stated in this column are his and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • anybody home February 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    An excellent capsule explanation, Bruce. I was a military wife and later fell in love with a Vietnam vet who has PTSD. In addition, I’ve had a few of the guys in my writing classes and have other friends who were there. It’s a hard road for them as well as those who love them. Sounds as if you’re doing yeoman work in St. George and I hope you remember how to get to work for a long time to come…All best…

  • Bill February 28, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Please consider the following as a front page article on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder –

    The Transcendental Meditation program has been endorsed by the Veterans Administration for over 20 years for soldiers with PTSD.

    Kindly watch and share with all –

    “PTSD and Transcendental Meditation – David George, Infantryman” (2:34; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ki4c-XkYsM / excellent!)

    and

    “Transcendental Meditation Improves Performance at Military University” (5:12; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIH0913lQe0 )

    Also see, “Use a Treatment for PTSD That Actually Works” in The Hill, Washington DC
    http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/262340-use-a-treatment-for-ptsd-that-actually-works

    and

    “Transcendental Meditation May Reduce PTSD Symptoms, Medication in Active-Duty Personnel” in EurekAlert (01/11/16)
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/mcog-tmm011116.php

    Thanks!
    Bill @ BillsArtBox.com

    P.S. Please visit http://www.OperationWarriorWellness.org for more information.

    Note: Results are available for long-standing PTSD symptoms, as well, including for Vietnam Veterans.

    Also, see the dramatic effects for Domestic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for women and children, and for PTSD for “First Responders”, at http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/#video=6gM_sXiUPvo (5:24)

    Also, from http://www.Army.mil :

    “Transcendental Meditation – a Path to Healing”

    “Doctors promised him through medication and hard work he could potentially heal over the course of years, but since transcendental meditation he has moved much closer to achieving his recovery in months.”

    – U.S. Armed Services official website, http://www.Army.mil

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