Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
PTSD & The Military
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), once referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious mental health condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred, was threatened, or implied. PTSD is a lasting and at times debilitating consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, hopelessness, loss on interest in things once enjoyed, anxiety, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims and or those that are close to victims that have endured a traumatic event can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can occur following a life-threatening event like military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, near death experiences, or violent personal assaults like rape. Many survivors of trauma can and often do return to a “normal” life following a traumatic experience, however, there are some that develop PTSD in response to the trauma, and are unable to return to a “normal” life without help. Those that suffer from PTSD often suffer from nightmares, flashes, intense anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and present with emotional bluntness. These symptoms can significantly impair a person's daily life.
Those suffering from PTSD endure marked physical and psychological symptoms. The symptoms of PTSD can look like a lot of other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, substance abuse related disorders, panic disorder, anger management issues, problems of memory and cognition, and other physical and mental health problems. The disorder is also associated with difficulties in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems, family discord, and difficulties in parenting. Survivors of a traumatic experience may often feel on edge, anxious, jumpy with heart palpitations, an experience frequent recurring nightmares.
Individuals serving in the military are trained to fight, protect, and ensure the safety of the public. The process of serving in the military requires basic training, which is a process designed to develop skills that will aid to keep a combatant alive and fighting long after he or she might have given up under more normal circumstances. These patterns do not go away by themselves if they have been burned into the soul by a traumatic experience. There is no basic un-training. Emotional numbing and or becoming emotionally blunted allows for the person to put aside feelings and do whatever it takes to survive or help others survive. This is both an appropriate and necessary process to ensure panic, anxiety, and second thoughts do not interfere with the military personnel’s ability to act and react to situations that can determine life and death.
In recognition of Memorial day we must acknowledge, appreciate, and show our unrelenting gratitude for those that serve and have served and protected our country so courageously and gallantly. Let’s not overlook their selfless acts of kindness, generosity, and unwavering strength, but remain cognizant of the personal sacrifices that was made to ensure our safety. These sacrifices were often made at the physical, emotional, psychological, and social expense of the soldier.