The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating, and it is one of the most common war injuries, aside from physical injuries, that are often encountered in combat, as well as extremely dangerous, life-threatening, or terrifying incidents (Nielsen et al., 2015). The American Psychological Association has classified this emotional disorder as anxiety (Nielsen et al., 2015). Soldiers suffering from PTSD have nightmares and recurrent fears. Some people are so depressed that they consider suicide (Junger, 2015). Veterans and military returnees from active service have a difficult time reintegrating into civilian life, while their combat counterparts suffer from psychological trauma (Junger, 2015). The experience of soldiers with PTSD is the basis of this report. After functioning in war fares of varied intensity, many have reported “shocks” and pandemonium. The situation will be considered from three perspectives, namely: humanities, natural science and social science. Epidemiologic factors and a number of therapies will be highlighted. As we gather more on the effects PTSD has on soldiers and veterans of war, relating with them becomes easier and these soldiers may stabilize quicker and probably, seamlessly into civilian life again. However, this psychological situation is yet to be accepted by all medical scholars and experts, as an absolutely psychological disorder (Gates, Holowka, Vasterling, Keane, Marx & Rosen, 2012), The term “victims” or “sufferers” were chosen instead of “patients”(unless, it becomes unavoidable). Most importantly, this report seeks to expose more effects of PTSD on soldiers today. It is vital because of the endless complicacies, recommendations that might be admissible for a victim may not be ideal for another victim.
Key words: PTSD, victim(s), veteran(s), disorder, therapy, soldier(s), factor(s), symptom(s), sufferer(s)
How Post Traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) Affects Soldiers Today
Defined as a mental illness, post-traumatic stress involves the exposure to sexual violence, serious injury, and threat of death or trauma involving death (Nielsen et al., 2015). When an event causes lots of distress, when it is overwhelming and frightening, it is categorized as traumatic. Over 20% of combat veterans have lifetime occurrence of PTSD. This illness has taken a long time to recognize and it is even harder to diagnose, because it is not directly a physical wound, but it rather affects mental health of the victim (Nielsen et al., 2015).
The following symptoms of PTSD have been reported of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan:
Re-experienced traumatic events in dissociative episodes,
Fatigue (Rajkowski, 2009).
Activities such as facing and killing an enemy combatant engages series of complex psychological and emotional reactions. In fact, PTSD has plagued veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, at a rate of 1: 5 (Premiere, 2008). Other clusters of interrelated symptoms as stated by the American Psychiatric Association are:
Anger, (Gates et al., 2012), (Rossignol, 2010).
In night times, some may need to calm their selves by watching television, having a drink, or smoke cigarettes. Others, out of restless vigilance go on security patrol around their homes or stay awake all night. Alcohol and substance abuse becomes an addiction. Rossignol, (2010) reports that, they commonly suffer the following:
chronic pain (Rossignol, 2010).
sense of foreshortened future,
avoidance of traumatic reminders,
and upon exposure to trauma cues, physiologic reactivity, distress, flashbacks, recurrent dreams, intrusive thoughts (Gates et al., 2012; NIH, 2016).
Missed diagnoses could be minimized and cases of probable PTSD detected by use of adequate screening measures. Some questionnaires are structured such that they rate, the nature, frequency, and severity of impact created by separate and specific scenarios and circumstances on military personnel and veterans (Gates et al., 2012).
According to Hughes (2012), tracked-blood flow in the brain has revealed to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI), that fear and emotions in a PTSD victim, are processed by an overactive amygdala and an underactive part of the prefrontal cortex. Decision making and reasoning, controlled by the anterior cingulate cortex and the memory’s hippocampus have shrunk from extreme sensitivity to stress and are weakly linked. Rossignol (2010), reports of rapid heart rate and other physiological reactions accompanying re-experienced symptoms. Loved ones and spouses complain sufferers do not sleep well and turn restlessly in bed. Themes or contents of traumatic episodes are reflected in disturbing and vivid dreams of these sufferers.
However, some PTSD victims are recovering faster than others due to biological disparity. Soldiers with high levels of neuropeptide-y (an amino acid), have been able to suppress their fears from high stress, as the acid is a chemical buffer against endocrine-hormones (Junger, 2015). Epidemiologic factors such as: prior psychiatric history, younger age at trauma, exposure to additional life stressors, lack of social support, combat-related injury, perceived life threat and trauma severity, influence the risk of PTSD in military personnel and veterans(Gates et al., 2012). To understand the epidemiology, factors influencing recovery, and the most effective treatment regimen, individuals should be studied before recruitment and with registries of PTSD, followed for trauma exposure (Gates et al., 2012).
Lost-work productivity is an attributable-expectation of PTSD’s high cost, as shown by researchers. After returning from deployment, during only the first two years, over 6.2 billion dollars for all currently deployed service members is given as the economic cost of major depressions and PTSD. The treatment cost of PTSD from complication of diagnosis by chronic pain to persistent post concussive symptoms is very high. Veterans with higher risk of PTSD history have higher suicidal ideation, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders with infectious, gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular nervous system (Gates et al., 2012). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders defines that in PTSD, the associated trauma, is characterized by avoidance of stimuli, symptoms of increased arousal and re-experiences of extreme traumatic events (Nielsen et al., 2015). Sufferers avoid talking about or thinking upon their traumatic past, seeking isolation, they avoid things, places or people, for fear of recalling or deliberating on past experiences (Nielsen et al., 2015). The disorder appears in differing dramatic, personality changes amongst sufferers. Nielsen et al. (2015), report an increasing tendency to be aroused, excited; a dulling of emotions and repeated thoughts of the ordeal. Depression, anti-social behavior, substance abuse, hopelessness about the future, self-destructive behavior, poor relationships and poor self-esteem is commonly developed amongst soldiers with PTSD (Nielsen et al., 2015).
Gates et al.,( 2012) put that physical health problems, legal difficulties, job instability, family and marital problems are more likely to be experienced by male and female soldiers with cognitive and emotional symptoms of PTSD. On every individual in the family is a toll from having a member, who is suffering PTSD (Nielsen et al., 2015). The cost of this disorder is substantially large for the society, families of soldiers, the active duty service personnel, and veterans with numerous damaging outcomes associated with PTSD (Gates et al., 2012).
The expression of psychological trauma by soldiers under the grip of PTSD is daunting. Nielsen et al. (2015), relate night sweats, blackouts, frequent headaches, breathing difficulties, chest pain, stomach upset etc. as one or all of the problems experienced by PTSD sufferers. Signs such as hypertension, troubles staying or falling asleep have been reported amongst chronic sufferers (Nielsen et al., 2015). The life of a suffering soldier may be altered for life as differences are noted from case to case on the degrees of PTSD’s severity. Reacting as though, the original event was still alive, days at a time or minutes have been used to relieve the traumatic past (Nielsen et al., 2015). Anger, irritability, guilt, shame, suspicion to threat, being startled, diminished interest on activities once enjoyed, emotional numbness, difficulty in experiencing pleasure and poor concentration (Nielsen et al., 2015). But help is available to them. Already, the belief that, if needed, help and interaction by family members and friends would be available and the actual receipt coupled with the type and quality of relationship make factors that may enhance the psychological and physical wellbeing of these victims (Kaniasty, 2005). PTSD therapy has benefited whole family units (Rajkowski, 2009), as family members gain proper comprehension of the victims’ status-quo, and adequately help their loved one reintegrate to civilian life (Premiere, 2008).
Rajkowski (2009) found that the panic and frights in PTSD soldiers at daily sounds of civilian life gradually subside and many become able to disconnect painful memories, from daily routine life, after engaging in a treatment plan, labeled “Virtual Iraq”. This is a therapeutic game, in which they land in virtual “Iraq” and acquaint themselves with familiar surroundings. At certain local hospitals like the San Francisco VA Medical Center clinical teams for PTSD patients and holding various therapy sessions are situated. Free examinations and treatment are offered to returnees of Operation enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi freedom. Experts are advised to follow up as appropriate, recommended referrals for sufferers, screened and diagnosed with PTSD. Their trauma history should be elicited and traumatic stress symptoms addressed with keen alertness (Rossignol, 2010).
Social and emotional support by families and friends is important to PTSD patients.
It is essential that at designated health and therapy centers, for their service to the country, veterans should be thanked and formally appreciated (Rossignol, 2010).
On their traumatic experiences, experts should make sure to ask about sexual traumas (Rossignol, 2010).
These sufferers should be thoroughly listened to and their feelings about trauma properly validated (Rossignol, 2010).
An appropriate clinician should assess for suicidal ideation and recommend treatment with psychological evaluation (Rossignol, 2010).
The government should have more purpose-made clinical centers for PTSD patients and the public to grow in their knowledge of the ailment (NIH, 2016), (Nielsen et al., 2015).
Research work on the intricacy of PTSD needs more funds and interest.
PTSD soldiers and veterans can help their selves. Firstly, with a self-resolve and determination to get back to normal life and style. External help will afterwards be more admissible.
PTSD’s grip on many soldiers has been expressed in varied actions and reactions even to the point of suicide (Junger, 2015), today. The percentage of veterans and marines, returning from active duty that have screened positive is above 12 (Premiere, 2008). Gates et al. (2012), postulate “as high as 14-16” % for “deployed military personnel”. However, a lot of efforts are being made to help PTSD victims, counteract the effects. Interestingly, available therapies are helping to shift the mentality of these sufferers to an awareness that they are getting better from a completely negative disposition of their selves (Nielsen et al., 2015).
Gates, M. A., & Holowka, D. W., & Vasterling, J. J., & Keane, T. M., & Marx, B. P. (2012). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans and Military Personnel: Epidemiology, Screening, and Case Recognition. Psychological Services. 9(4), 361-382. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/ser-a0027649.pdf
Hughes, V. (2012). Stress: The Roots of Resilience. Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science. 490(7419), 165-167. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.nature.com/news/stress-the-roots-of-resilience-1.11570
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Kaniasty, K. (2005). Social Support and Traumatic Stress. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD Research Quarterly. 16(2). Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/v16n2.pdf
Nielsen, J.H., Andersen, S.B. & Hogh, A., (2015). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among Soldiers 2.5 Years after Military Deployment in Afghanistan: The Role of Personality Traits as Predisposing Risk Factors. Journal of European Psychology Students. 6(1), pp.1–9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jeps.cp
NIH. (2016). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
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Rajkowski, J. (2009). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Returning Iraq and Afghanistan Soldiers. A Bibliography Plan. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www2.hawaii.edu/~nahl/students/601_bibplan_rajkowski.pdf
Rossignol, M. (2010). Recognizing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in military veterans. 5(2). Retrieved o April 23, 2017 from http://www.americannursetoday.com/recognizing…
Stewart, S.S. (2011). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and The Effect on Law Enforcement. Retrieved on April 19, 2017 from http://www.cji.edu/site/assets/files/1921/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.pdf