Memorial Day and PTSD

Memorial Day is a holiday known for barbecues, parades and road trips. It’s a day set aside to mourn and honor our fallen heroes who have sacrificed their lives while protecting our great nation. No one is disputing the worthiness of this national holiday, however there is a movement to recognize the struggles that veterans face when they leave the battlefield. For some of these soldiers, Memorial Day and other military holidays serve as reminders of everything that they’ve been through and act as triggers for such conditions as anxiety, depression and PTSD, which may have developed while they were in service.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an extreme anxiety disorder that can develop following a severe trauma or life-threatening event. This definition is quite broad and can mean different things to different people. This definition also includes sexual violence and rape. According to the RAND Corporation, at least 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD and/or depression. The consensus is that the percentage is much higher due to under-reporting, in addition to traumatic brain injuries. A further study found that approximately 50 percent of these veterans will seek some form of treatment. Then the statistics further deteriorate regarding the quality and duration of treatment received.

According to the National Center for PTSD, symptoms include:

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). These are also called, “flashbacks”. One might experience memories or nightmares or even may feel like they’re going through the event again.

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. A person might avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They might avoid talking or thinking about the event in hopes of suppressing it.

Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way a person thinks about him or herself and others may change because of the trauma. There might be feelings of guilt or shame. Or, they might not be interested in activities they once enjoyed. Moreover, he or she might feel that the world is dangerous and find it difficult to trust anyone. They might be experiencing numbness or finding it hard to feel happy.

Feeling keyed up (also called hyper-arousal). He or she may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, they could have trouble concentrating or sleeping. They could experience bursts of anger or feel irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

If these symptoms sound familiar to you, treatment should be sought out. PTSD is an extremely complicated and a life altering disorder. Those who have served in military are at a higher risk of developing such conditions than the general population. As such, it is critical that we do more to highlight and raise awareness regarding veterans and PTSD to better facilitate access to treatment.

For further information, please refer the following PTSD and Cannabis Treatment Links:

– Catherine Bouvier

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