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Understanding PTSD in Veterans

Understanding PTSD in Veterans

Every year on Veteran’s Day, most people have no hesitation when thanking a veteran for their service. But what about asking them how they are doing? Our veterans have been through trying times that many of us could not imagine. It is important that we support them not only by thanking them for their service but by being an advocate for them.

In our society, it is not extremely common for people to ask deep or emotionally related questions to strangers. But we never know what someone else is going through unless we ask. Of course, you do not want to pressure them. But even simply asking: “How are you feeling today?” could make the world of a difference for someone struggling with PTSD. Today we are going to address how you can help people with PTSD (on Veteran’s Day and beyond) even if you do not know someone close to you suffering from it. The second section will explain how to help a loved one get help for their PTSD or if you are seeking treatment yourself.

How You Can Help

If you are not a veteran or do not know a veteran struggling with PTSD, you may be asking yourself how you can help. The good news is there are many ways that you can still help even if you do not have the ability to interact with a veteran in your day to day life.

Educate yourself

Learning about PTSD and understanding how it can affect individuals is the first step to educating yourself. When someone struggles with PTSD, they have flashbacks, nightmares, or troubling thoughts related to a traumatic event that happened in their past. These flashbacks, nightmares, and thoughts can lead to debilitating anxiety and depression. There is a ton of research out there to help people understand PTSD even if they have never struggled with it themselves.

Advocacy

Being an advocate for veterans struggling with PTSD can make a world of a difference. You may think you are just one person and wonder how one person can help. But even advocating in your daily life can make more of a difference than you think. This can be talking to friends and family, volunteering, or donating when you can. All these things can start the conversation about veterans struggling with PTSD.

Ask questions

When you are out in the world and come across a veteran, you will likely thank them for their service. But you can take this a step further and ask them how their day is going or how they are feeling that day. This simple question can make a huge difference for someone that is struggling with PTSD. There is a good chance that the person struggling will not give you all of the details of how they are doing. But this at least gives them the option to.

How You Can Get Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, please know that getting help and support is possible. It can be scary to reach out, but you are not weak for asking for help. You are worth it, and it will not feel this way forever.

Therapy

Talk therapy can be one of the greatest tools to utilize when it comes to recovering from symptoms of PTSD. Finding a therapist that specializes in working with veterans can ensure that your specific therapist understands the challenges that come with being a veteran living with PTSD. Because PTSD is so common in veterans, there are many therapists that specialize in this, which makes finding one to help you much easier. The main types of therapy that are used to treat PTSD is trauma-based psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Medication management

Another way to get help for PTSD is to speak to your psychologist or psychiatrist about starting the medication. There are many medications that can be used to help ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, or compulsive thoughts. Medication will not cure all issues you are struggling with, but it can help to take the edge off, so you are able to work through issues in therapy. Medications can have side effects so it is important to discuss these with a psychiatrist before you start taking them. You should also make sure that your psychologist is aware of these changes to your treatment.

Support groups

One of the most helpful tools for someone struggling with PTSD is joining a support group. Support groups can be very helpful for those struggling because it will help them feel less alone. By being able to interact with other individuals struggling with the same things, they will be able to find hope that things can and will get better. They can also be helpful because they can learn ways to help manage their symptoms from others that might be further along in their recovery. There are also even support groups for loved ones of those with PTSD. This can help those that live with or take care of someone with PTSD.

Veterans are such an important group in our society. They are fighting or have fought for our freedom which allows us to live our lives in the ways we choose. Giving back to our veterans is something that should always be done without hesitation. Even if you do not personally struggle or do not know anyone that does, you can still be an advocate for helping veterans get help with PTSD. PTSD can be a terrifying disorder and it can be scary for the person struggling to reach out for help. If more people understand the realities of PTSD (especially regarding veterans) we can help those who need it get the help they deserve. It is always important to thank veterans for their service, but there is more that we can do. It is our responsibility to protect those that have protected us and who have risked their lives to do so. Veteran’s Day comes once a year but celebrating and taking care of our veterans is something that should be done every day of the year.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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