At Confidential Recovery, we have seen so much pain in the Veteran community as a result of PTSD, and the result is often drug and alcohol abuse that can tear families apart. But there is a lot about PTSD that most people don’t know or understand.
When most people think of PTSD, they might think of a former servicemember waking up from a nightmare, or closing their eyes and reliving a scene from the battlefield. While both of these things happen, and are definitely PTSD, in practice, the symptoms might be different than what you think.
For one thing, PTSD can appear months or years after service and grow over time. You might think that PTSD would be most acute immediately after service, and as the time between the Veteran and his active duty grew longer, the painful memories would fadeand the PTSD would taper off. However, PTSD can be a progressive condition that gradually changes the behavior of the person who is suffering from it. It can get worse if it is untreated.
Behavioral Changes that Manifest in the Sufferer of PTSD
Veterans who are struggling with PTSD will often avoid settings with large groups of people, where they may experience fear of the unknown, and a loss of control. Veterans sometimes feel like they can’t trust anybody, and isolate completely.Along with this isolation comes the intrusive thoughts, which will sometimes lead to drinking and or drug use to self-medicate from painful memories or negative thoughts.
Veterans who are struggling with PTSD will often be short tempered, and easily irritated. Sometimes the sufferer will have problems concentrating and exhibit memory problems. Some Veterans with PTSD will take excessive risks, like driving very fast. One in threeveterans reports having been arrested.
Why is it Hard for Veterans to Get Help for PTSD?
Part of the reason for our nation’s military might and the freedoms we enjoy are that brave members of the armed forces adopting the warrior ethos of self-sufficiency, and the spirit of “never surrender.” This is drilled into Veterans during basic training and throughout military service. In fact, Article II of the Armed Force’s “Code of Conduct” states “I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my troops while they still have the means to resist.”. Unfortunately, this leads many veterans to hang on and suffer in silence until the bitter end, when they truly no longer have the means to resist. The result is that Veterans who are struggling with mental health problems feel like they need to will themselves to overcome their symptoms, and we have seen that ignoring PTSD or a substance use disorder (SUD) can actually lead to the disorders progressing and getting worse, over time.
What to Do if You Know a Veteranwith PTSD?
You should definitely check in on your Veteran friend or loved one. Ask them how they are doing and let them know that you care about them.And you should also ask them directly “Have you thought about killing yourself?” This may seem like a difficult question, but often asking it can encourage the veteran to face it honestly and ask for help. It doesn’t have to be perfect, don’t overthink it.Veterans are 50% more likely to attempt suicide than their civilian counterparts, and there are 17 veteran suicides each day. So, if you know a Veteran who is exhibiting symptoms of suicidal ideation, urge them to call the Veteran Crisis Suicide Hotline at 988. They can also text to 838255 if they would prefer that method of communication.
Thank a Veteran this Memorial Day
Freedom isn’t free. The lifestyle we enjoy in the United States is a result of sacrifices made by millions of Veterans. Make an effort to thank the Veteran in your life and show them your gratitude this Memorial Day, it will be appreciated.
About the Author
Jay Wylie is a Southern California native who served as a Naval Officer for 22 years. Jay is in recovery now and helps Veterans and first responders get sober and stay that way at Confidential Recovery in San Diego, California. Jay also helps Veterans through his participation in the Veterans Navigation Center, an organization and services that bridges the gap between Veterans and life-changing services and support they may not realize they have access to.