We know how difficult it can be getting through all the days and weeks of the year alone at home when you’re separated from a loved one serving on deployment abroad. But it doesn’t end there, even when your servicemember returns. They can bring home with them experiences that are hard to process, let alone talk about. And it can make both of you unreachable at a time when you should be reaching out to each other the most. SpouseLink guest blogger Crystal Hampton shares her expert insights on how to handle these tough times and help each other get through them.
By Crystal Hampton
It’s frightening to watch a loved one go off to war, but what many Military Families have discovered is that another battle begins once they return home. Nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan that were treated at VA hospitals have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Military researchers have reported that nearly one in five of the more than two million U.S. servicemembers who have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan have returned with an array of signs and symptoms. These official, conservative estimates confirm that at least 400,000 U.S. troops have been impacted with PTSD. You may have seen terms such as traumatic brain injury, polytrauma, combat stress, blast injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-concussive syndrome, or other names, but each of these fits into the spectrum of symptoms called PDS.
Four hundred thousand previously healthy young men and women now live with a range of signs and symptoms that, at times, causes them to be completely disabled or to suffer so much that they even may take their own lives. That’s why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with the signs of PTSD so that you can recognize them, and to understand the common types of treatment that may help alleviate them.
See below for insights.
Signs of PTSD
- Poor frustration tolerance
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty making decisions
- Slowed thinking
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Poor coordination or clumsiness
- Feeling dizzy
- Loss of balance
- Vision problems or blurring
- Loss of or increased appetite
- Numbness in parts of the body
- Sensitivity to noise
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty hearing
- Change in taste or smell
But perhaps the hardest for family members to deal with is the fact the soldier just doesn’t care about anything anymore. “Surviving the war meant they had to nub-out emotionally,” explains Dr. E.C Hurley, a retired Army Colonel who treats PTSD at his clinic The Soldier Center. “They toned down all emotions except anger.”
Common Types of Treatment for PTSD
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy — A behavioral therapy technique that helps you face the very thing that you find frightening, so that you can learn to cope with it. A new approach to exposure therapy uses “virtual reality” programs that allow you to re-enter the setting in which you experienced trauma — for example, a “Virtual Iraq” program.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) — Relative to other behavioral health procedures, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a new therapy. The first reliable transcranial magnetic stimulator was introduced to the world by Anthony Barker in 1984. Since then, TMS has undergone various developments and applications, including the measurement of brain activity and the treatment of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other mental health conditions.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy — Developed by Francine Shapiro, this type of psychotherapy that combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories. Studies have concluded that EMDR treatment can cure PTSD cases resulting from a single trauma in just six sessions.
Figuring out PTSD isn’t easy, but it’s also not some new and profound mystery. To some extent, a systematic demystification of PTSD and its varied manifestations is one of the first key steps toward managing it. If you know what something is, it becomes less scary, less confusing, and easier to begin to deal with. The greatest challenge, and the first step in recovery, is developing a clearer understanding of the many components that it is made of. These multiple factors must be understood and addressed in order to begin to help improve these symptoms. This is the jumpstart needed to diffuse the effects of PTSD on the servicemember, Veteran, the family, and even the very health care workers, who are trying to help fix the problem.
Unfortunately for many soldiers, there is a stigma attached to mental health treatment. But it is critical that they want the help since effective treatment requires attending multiple sessions of therapy. Getting them in touch with other soldiers who are experiencing the same thing can lesson this stigma.
Crystal Hampton is an avid writer from South Florida. She loves snuggling with her teacup Yorkie Gator and boyfriend Adam. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope. She has an MS in Applied Behavior Analysis and a B.Ed. in Elementary Education. You can find more of her work on JourneyPure.com.