PTSD Symptoms in Veterans
Before looking at PTSD symptoms it’s important to understand the definition of PTSD.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) defines PTSD as a “disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.”
For example, a fatal car accident could leave surviving victims with traumatic memories that are hard to forget, causing them to relive the moment over and over in their head.
For military veterans, it is not uncommon for those who have been in combat, either direct or indirect, to be diagnosed with PTSD, especially for those who have seen close friends die in battle, or even training accidents.
It can be difficult to talk about situations like that, and the same is true for people who aren’t military veterans that go through a traumatic experience.
Both the Mayo Clinic and ADAA state that PTSD symptoms can begin to manifest within one month of a “traumatic event.” However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), in order for symptoms to be considered PTSD, they must “last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with functioning in relationships or work.
In some cases, symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder may even take years to appear. An experienced psychiatrist or psychologist have the ability to properly diagnose PTSD.
Behavioral PTSD symptoms:
- hypervigilance (always on edge, expecting anything to happen)
- self-drestructive behavior (drinking, drug abuse, thrill seeking)
- social isolation
Psychological PTSD symptoms:
- Fear and anxiety
- Mistrust of others
- No interest in activities
Other symptoms include unwanted thoughts and emotional detachment. Emotional detachment can have a negative impact on relationships, especially with a spouse or friend. If you have PTSD, you may feel alienated from them or feel that they may never understand what’s going on in your head.
How are PTSD Symptoms treated in veterans?
There are many types of treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms including different types of psychotherapy and medication. The most recommended treatments for PTSD symptoms that have the most research to support their effectiveness are Trauma-focused Psychotherapies.
As “the most highly recommended type of treatment” for PTSD symptoms, Trauma-focused treatment focuses on the memories of traumatic events and associated meanings. Different techniques are used to help a person with PTSD process their traumatic experience, such as visualizing, talking, and thinking about the traumatic memory.
Types of trauma-focused psychotherapies for treating PTSD symptoms
- Teaches you how to face negative feelings and gain control.
- Achieved through making you do things you would have otherwise avoided since the traumatic event
Cognitive Processing Therapy
- Reframing negative thoughts about a traumatic event through writing assignments
The writing assignments are designed to teach a person how to evaluate upsetting thoughts so that they can be changed. An example writing assignment would be writing about how your traumatic experience has affected you and your life.
Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
While this sounds like something from the movie A Clockwork Orange, EMDR, is a nontraditional type of psychotherapy. Instead of relying on talk or medications, a patients own “rapid, rhythmic eye movements” are used.
After a traumatic event, it’s not unusual for a person to have trouble making complete sense of what happened, EMDR treatment helps to process the event so that the healing process can start.
The interesting aspect of this treatment is that patients typically do not talk about details regarding their traumatic experience out loud. They will instead rely on keeping the details in their head.
How EMDR therapy works:
Basically, a therapist will move their fingers back and forth while you are asked to follow their hand motions with your eyes. At this time you will be asked to mentally recall the traumatic event. Gradually, you will be asked to guide your thoughts to more pleasant places.
This process is designed to help alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories, essentially by reprogramming how you respond to those same negative thoughts and memories.
Do you believe that you or someone else you may know is experiencing PTSD symptoms? Use the locator to find services near you.
Medications for Treating PTSD symptoms
Currently, there are four main antidepressant medications that are recommended for treating symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder
Brand name & (Generic Name)
While there are many other medications that have been used to treat PTSD symptoms, these are the most common ones prescribed, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
When seeking treatment for PTSD symptoms, it pays to be mindful of what you may be prescribed. Antidepressants are known to have a long list of side effects such as:
- Upset stomach
- Decreased sex drive
Additionally, there is even an “established link between suicide and violent behavior” with the use of antidepressants.
What is the best treatment for symptoms of PTSD?
Unfortunately, there is no single “best” treatment for PTSD symptoms. The best treatment is the safest treatment, so that rules out medication such as antidepressants and the long list of side effects associated with them. Trauma-focused Psychotherapy is a good alternative to medication.
As the study of post traumatic stress disorder evolves, so do treatments associated with it. Currently, even marijuana is be tested as a possible treatment for PTSD symptoms, in addition to MDMA.