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Family Dynamics Change with PTSD


About one in five families of veterans will never be the same once a soldier returns from combat. That is because the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs finds that one in five combat veterans develop a mental illness known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD can be developed after an individual either witnesses or experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, and that trauma affects them on a deep emotional level.

It is not particularly known as to why only one out of five combat veterans who experience murder and bloodshed clinically develop the disease, but it could be just as well that many cases go undiagnosed. PTSD had only been recognized by the medical community since after the Vietnam War, yet humans have always been susceptible to trauma. But due to the condition still being relatively new in the public eye, many families of returning veterans might not be aware of the changes in personality and behavior PTSD can bring that can make their veteran almost unrecognizable.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD has three main categories of symptoms: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyperarousal symptoms. These symptoms can be described more literally as nightmares and flashbacks, feelings of anger and guilt, and trouble sleeping respectively. In essence, even though a soldier has physically returned home from combat, the war continues on in his or her mind due to the constant flashbacks, nightmares, and lack of sleep. These symptoms can appear at any time, and a soldier might not even know he or she has PTSD until possibly months after the traumatic event. For this reason, family can play a large role in an unofficial diagnosis by noticing the signs of early-onset PTSD.

One important thing to remember is that war changes people to an almost permanent effect. Soldiers can rarely fully identify with the civilian world once they have been stripped from civilian morals in order to shoot and kill during combat. Therefore, sympathy and empathy have no place when it comes to trying to re-identify with a returned soldier, since civilians cannot begin to fathom the horrors in which soldiers must witness on a daily basis. But do not let your loved one succumb to the devastating effects of PTSD. If left untreated, their condition will only worsen, and many media outlets recently reported that 22 veterans a day commit suicide. It is probable that a large number of those veterans were suffering from some sort of mental illness, including PTSD, and did not receive the proper help they needed in order to take control of their symptoms.

Professional treatment is currently the only known way to mediate the effects of PTSD, as no cure exists.Normally, veterans are encouraged to seek help from the VA, but the treatment options offered by the VA are notoriously unhelpful. A news report released by CNN in 2012 found that instead of exercising both psychiatric medication as well as talk therapy to help treat ailing veterans, prescription narcotics were prescribed 259% more in 2012 than 2002. The VA explained that due to the influx of veterans affected with mental illness and traumatic brain injury from both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was simply easier and faster if the VA prescribed a chain of narcotics to each veteran in order to treat more of them versus spending time in individualized talk-therapy.

No doubt that the inadequacy on the behalf of the VA helps contribute to the 22 military suicides that occur daily, and for one Gold Star Mother, it was time for change. Roxann Abrams lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to military suicide after he shot himself in the head after he kept re-experiencing the horrors of his service in Iraq in 2004. In memory of her son and his undiagnosed condition, Abrams founded Operation: I.V.,anon-profit 501c3organization that offers effective and individualized treatment to veterans suffering from PTSD and other illnesses, as well as traumatic brain injuries.

Veterans can receive treatment through a specialized "VIP", or "Veteran Intervention Plan" program through Operation: I.V.. "VIP" offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran's mental health and transition back into civilian life while simultaneously bringing comfort back into the minds of their families.

 


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