Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt.
While PTSD certainly extends beyond the military, the problem is especially prevalent among war veterans. All the more so, the mental health of military service personnel returning from conflict is a hidden phenomenon which is not addressed by a medical professional until it’s too late.
Causes of PTSD
The type of events that can cause PTSD include:
- Being held hostage
- Military combat
- Natural disasters such as severe floods, earthquakes, or tsunamis
- Prolonged sexual abuse, violence, or severe neglect
- Serious road accidents
- Terrorist attacks
- Violent personal assaults; such as sexual assault, mugging, or robbery
- Witnessing violent deaths
Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation. This may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what individuals do in the war, the politics around the war, where the war is fought, and the type of enemy individuals face.
Symptoms of PTSD
According to the NHS, these are the symptoms of PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance and emotional numbing, hyperarousal, and other problems.
Furthermore, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that: ‘An individual’s PTSD might include symptoms such as feelings of shame, or less commonly, compulsive or aggressive behaviours, or self-destructive behaviour.’ These cases can interfere with an individual’s personal life and are also linked with certain social patterns; such as sexual dysfunction, marital conflicts, and job loss.
Research also suggests that there are also strong feelings of guilt and despair, mistrust of others, difficulty in relationships – all of which can lead to social withdrawal and substance abuse among individuals who suffer from PTSD.
Ways to cope better with PTSD after military service
British military veterans who suffer from PTSD wait an average of four years to seek support, a Help for Heroes study has found. The survey found that many did not ask for help because they believed civilian services would not understand or support them, and that they had a fear of being treated differently by friends and family.
PTSD is treatable and here are some ways that military veterans can cope better:
Be physically active
A 2014 study reveals that sport and physical activity enhances subjective well-being in veterans through active coping and doing things again, PTSD symptom reduction, positive affective experience, activity in nature, and quality of life.
Thee researchers also observe that there’s an impact on psychological well-being includes determination and inner strength, focus on ability and broadening of horizons, identity and self-concept, activity in nature/ecotherapy, sense of achievement, and social well-being. Participating in sports or physical activity can also enhance motivation for living.
Cognitive behavioural approach
Many combat veterans struggle with PTSD and hazardous alcohol use and are hesitant to engage in behavioural health services. Combining peer support with an eHealth intervention may overcome many barriers to care.
A 2019 study investigated the feasibility of adding peer support to web-based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) targeting PTSD symptoms and hazardous drinking, called Thinking Forward. The research found out that that CBT approach can help war veterans to experience significant improvements in PTSD, quality of life, resiliency, and coping.
Seek professional help
PTSD is a serious condition our war veterans can experience. Sadly, they can also experience other mental health issues such as depression, anger management problems or alcohol dependency. PTSD often results from extraordinary and extreme situations and experiences.
It is important to seek professional help in relation to mental health or military medical malpractice.
PTSD is a very unusual disorder because it appears to be the only mental disorder that results from a prior event. It is indeed compelling to realise how life-threatening or traumatic experience could psychologically affect how the brain typically functions and transform an individual to do behave in unusual ways.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.