PTSD Awareness Day: What to expect and How to Help War Veterans

Referred to as “invisible wound of war”, this disorder has become alarming more common now since a rise in US-led wars of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defined as mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it – its symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

The Senate established PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 following then-Sen. Kent Conrad’s efforts to designate a day of awareness as tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard, Davison said.

Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour of duty in the Iraq War. Biel’s birthday, June 27, was chosen to mark PTSD Awareness Day and honor his memory.

“We know a lot more about PTSD today than we did after previous wars, such as Vietnam,” Davison said, noting that symptoms of PTSD have existed in every war in American history.

Washington DC, John Davison, a clinical psychologist and chief of condition-based specialty care in DHA’s clinical support division, said in a June 24 News interview that it’s important to recognize PTSD’s signs and symptoms in order to treat it before is gets worse. Ignoring symptoms only makes the disorder worse.

“It’s important to know that deploying to a combat zone does not necessarily cause one to [develop] PTSD,” Davison said. “The vast majority who deploy in dangerous situations do not develop PTSD.”

Nonetheless, service members, veterans and their family members and friends should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD, he added.

“PTSD has an identifiable cause, which is experiencing or witnessing a significant trauma,” he said. “The disorder is treatable at any stage, whether it’s an early or late onset [or] a severe or a mild case,” Davison explained. People who might have symptoms should get treatment early, he said, before symptoms worsen or they turn to unhealthy ways of coping with the symptoms, such as abusing alcohol or drugs.

Davidson noted that returning service members might not openly talk about traumatizing experiences, however people and family members around them can recognize hallmark symptoms and should take actions to help them deal with it

Signs of PTSD, he said, can include re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and disturbances in thoughts or moods.

Also to be noted is that PTSD can be triggered by more than just war trauma. Major stress, sexual assault, terrorism, or other threats on a person’s life can also lead to PTSD.

People who experience assault-based trauma are more likely to develop PTSD, as opposed to people who experience non-assault based trauma such as witnessing trauma, accidents, and fire events. In addition – fortunately – children are less likely to experience PTSD after trauma than adults, especially if they are under ten years of age.

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