Being a hero is not easy, and it can be a lonely experience. Our veterans are exposed to violent or traumatic events, and the memory of these situations can haunt them for years afterward. Even the constant threat of being suddenly placed in a position of danger can eventually wear on a serviceperson's emotions, causing them to develop anxiety or depression.
Helping our Heroes: Veterans and PTSD
When our veterans return to life outside of the military, the adjustment can be exceptionally challenging. Though loving family members and supportive friends may surround veterans, they may be unable to understand the tremendous stress or traumatic memories a veteran experiences. These memories can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
- About 11 and 20% of veterans who served in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD.
- About 12% of military members who served in the Gulf War struggle with PTSD.
- About 15% of Vietnam veterans are currently diagnosed with PTSD, and 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetime.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric condition that occurs when people are exposed to stressful and traumatic events, like a car accident, abuse, sexual violence, or -- in the case of veterans -- war and combat situations. People who have PTSD experience intensely distressing thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares related to traumatic events or events. The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Recurrent and intrusive memories of the event.
- Having flashbacks of the event as if it were happening over again.
- Persistent nightmares or insomnia.
- Physical reactions such as vomiting or sweating when faced with a reminder of the event.
- Avoidance of talking, thinking, or activities that may be reminders of the event.
- Blank memories about aspects of the event.
- Feeling detached from family, friends, and activities that used to be interesting and enjoyable.
- Easily startled, fearful, and a consistent feeling of danger.
- Distracted and difficulty maintaining attention or finishing tasks.
- Angry, hostile, or irritable behavior.
- A high level of guilt or shame.
- Suicidal thoughts
Why Does PTSD Occur?
Traumatic events trigger the "flight-or-fight" response in the brain, which helps humans fight against danger. This flight-or-fight response releases chemicals in the brain and body. In some situations, repeated triggers of the fight-or-flight response change the brain's chemistry, making the brain and body much more susceptible to stress.
It's important to remember that each person is different -- veterans included. Not every person who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. And PTSD does not happen due to a failure or inability in the person diagnosed with it. Each person's background and genetic makeup is unique, and the effects of trauma can play out differently in each person.
How Can We Help Our Heroes?
The best way to support veterans with PTSD is to help them develop resilience. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is the process of being able to "bounce back" from traumatic experiences. Helping veterans strengthen their resilience before, during, and after their service can help prevent and heal PTSD. This includes assisting them with new ways to manage their stress. CamiGo's Smart Companion can offer anyone trying to overcome PTSD a way to manage their anxiety. Our handheld device is small enough to carry in a pocket or pouch, providing a convenient and effective way to manage the stress associated with PTSD.