By Rev Paul N. Papas II
This week we celebrate our nation’s independence from Britain. The fight was long and the battles were often personal and bloody and by all accounts we succeeded. The question is often asked: “What is success?” One measure of success in war is who took the most ground or captured the enemy’s capitol.
When the war is over our country reverts to a peacetime mode. For some people the war never ends. The names have been varied: in WW I it was” Soldiers Heart”, in WW II it was “shell shock”, in Korea it was “Battle Fatigue”, in Vietnam it was “Vietnam Syndrome”….don’t go near him. It is also known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Veterans with PTSD
would like to be home free from PTSD. It should be noted that most veterans return home and adjust to civilian life quite well. For those who suffer from PTSD they want their independence from suffering.
PTSD is also suffered by two-thirds of rape victims and can often be found in law enforcement, medical services, emergency responders, crisis management, grave registration, victims of violent crimes, victims and witnesses to natural and unnatural traumatic events, and victims of systematic and repeated emotional, sexual, physical, childhood or other abuse. All these PTSD sufferers want their independence from suffering, also.
PTSD is generally considered to be an anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical or emotional harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD may be triggered by violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, and military combat. PTSD is biologically and chemically related. It is not a thought-related disorder. F.M.R.I. (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and P.E.T. (position emission tomography) scans reveal that the brains of PTSD suffers function differently than normal brains due to differing brain chemistry.
Just as family members or those around abusive people can develop abusive behavior, further enlarging the cycle of abuse. Family members or those around PTSD sufferers can develop a form of PTSD known as “vicarious traumatic stress disorder” (VTSD). Just as the cycle of abuse can and should be broken if treated. VTSD is treatable. PTSD is a medical problem which is treatable. PTSD is a mental illness.
PTSD has been studied the most with two groups of trauma victims, rape and combat veterans. It has been reported that seventy-five percent of Americans have had at least one psychological trauma in their life. One in ten women and one in twenty men will have PTSD at one point in their life. The numbers are higher for women because of the large number of sexual assaults against women.
Rape PTSD is likely to be a lifelong disorder. Rape is a very personal humiliating attack upon the victims’ body, usually by surprise. The victim is usually alone with the trauma.
Combat veterans experienced a life threatening situation, the fact that they are soldiers and know that this is part of the job can actually help their resistance to PTSD. They also share a bond with others in their same situation.
What PTSD could look like for a combat veteran: They have survival instincts born through sheer terror, by sensory images, by geographical location. Combat vets with PTSD go from normal to an instant blind rage. As the combat veteran suffers through a PTSD attack he is back in the heat of battle where he reacts because the distance between life and death is measured in milliseconds and fractions of an inch. He does not think, argue, deliberate, negotiate or discuss in the heat of battle, he reacts.
A recent study published by the Department of Health and Humans Services
says that “male veterans in the general U.S. population are twice as likely as their peers to die by suicide”. This study used a broader base than the Department of Veteran Affairs, as not every veteran is cared for by the VA.
The cutbacks and change in procedures at the VA for health care have made it difficult for many veterans to receive the care they deserve.
For non-combat veterans the triggers are as varied as the traumas leading to the illness. A single trauma or long-term exposure to repeated extreme stress or trauma can cause PTSD.
Anyone who has endured trauma in the past is more likely to develop PTSD
if another trauma is experienced.
People who have a loved one with a major mental illness or those who have a major mental illness are more likely to develop PTSD.
Children haven’t developed coping skills to deal with trauma. The very old could have lost their coping skills. So, both groups are more susceptible to PTSD.
The physical symptoms of PTSD are: headaches, dizziness, chest pain, gastro-intestinal distress, immune system problems, discomforts in other parts of the body, bodily stress and tension, jumpiness and lack of concentration.
The emotional symptoms of PTSD are: flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, frightening and intrusive thoughts, especially when exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma, or anniversaries of the event.
The psychological symptoms of PTSD are: emotional numbness, severe sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and irritabilit
y, outbursts of anger and feelings of intense guilt.
Should you or someone you know experience any of the above symptoms or have experienced a trauma please seek medical help. You are not alone. If you want your independence from suffering help is available.
Rev Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries and current President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has support groups for family and friends in Framingham and Uxbridge, and Peer Support Groups in Marlborough and Milford and a Family to Family 12 week Education Course in Framingham and various Education Meetings, the next major event is a 5 K Walk/Run and fund raising dinner September 8,2007 to