Traumatic experiences are part of human life and experiences. The effects of trauma can last for a short or long period depending on the
situation and person involved. Military veterans may find it difficult to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression experienced in combat. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have struggled with PTSD. The ensuing Desert Storm War and Operation Iraqi Freedom have seen a rise in PTSD cases. Statistics from the VA Department shows that both wars have respectively registered 10 and 20 percent PTSD cases. Military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan exhibit a high PTSD prevalence. At least one in five soldiers from these two wars has PTSD. A veteran who finds work as atruck driver might experience difficulties in the new work environment. Several Acts have been enacted in a bid to improve the economic situation for veterans. These efforts are commendable but the PTSD situation calls for more research, treatment, and support efforts.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been known by names such as battle fatigue and shell shock. This debilitating condition develops after witnessing fatal or life threatening situations. This leads to a feeling of helplessness, extreme fear, and horror. Most of these experiences occur on the battlefield. PTSD symptoms will vary from person to person. This is due to the unique nature of every person’s DNA make up and ability to handle stressful situations. You can leave the military feeling healthy only to develop PTSD a few months or years later. Others may develop PTSD a few hours or days after combat. Some of the situations that may lead to PTSD include war, terror attacks, natural disasters, kidnapping, assault, death of a dear friend or companion, and rape. PTSD cuts across all races, ages, and gender. Data published by the VA Department shows that 71 percent of female personnel in the military suffer from PTSD. This is astonishing considering 17 percent of the military population is made up of female personnel.
Signs and symptoms
Military personnel have different trauma experiences from normal trauma. All traumatic events will make the person involved feel numb and afraid. These feelings may last for a few days and subside after some time. You might have might have nightmares and shudder at the thought of going through the same experience again. Most of these symptoms ebb away with time and life continues as usual. However, PTSD symptoms are not short lived but last for a long time. Veterans suffering from PTSD will feel like being stuck in a rut. Mental health experts have recognized three key PTSD symptoms. These include:
• Experiencing the traumatic event repeatedly This phase involves experiencing continuous memories of the same event. The flashbacks will make you behave as if the event is happening again at the present time. When this happens, the heart rate increases rapidly followed by sweating and rapid breathing. This will happen even when you are in bed sleeping.
• Deliberately avoiding reminders You will find it difficult to be in places or surroundings that remind you of the traumatic event. Many veterans lose interest in activities that were a joy in the past. This is accompanied by feelings of numbness and detachment from reality. Most of the veterans who experience these feelings do not expect to live a normal life again.
• Increased anxiety The person suffering from PTSD will have difficulty focusing on a given task. This is because you will be extremely anxious and easily startled by unexpected movements. In such a situation, it is easy to lose your cool. These symptoms make it hard for a veteran to thrive as trucker. A PTSD patient driving a truck on a busy highway will snap easily if other drivers block the road ahead. A tire burst may cause intense flashbacks while behind the wheel. This is not only dangerous to the trucker but to other road users as well.
These symptoms will make you feel depressed and guilty. The resulting self-blame attitude has led many veterans to dabble in drugs. Trapped in this unending cycle, some veterans entertain suicidal thoughts. If help is not available, the results can be fatal. This is why many veterans suffering from PTSD find it difficult to trust anyone else. Diagnosis
Veterans in the trucking industry should seek professional help before PTSD symptoms become worse. Diagnosis begins with a complete evaluation of your past medical history. This is important in order to address the root cause and rule out other physical ailments. The initial examination can be carried out by your doctor before referral to a specialist. Mental health professional are involved in the next step. This includes psychologists and psychiatrists who will carry out a thorough assessment of your mental state. Your interaction with a mental health expert will be the basis for treatment. The assessment takes into account the severity of PTSD symptoms. There is no standard PTSD benchmark or threshold. Most psychiatrists and psychologists recommend treatment if symptoms have been exhibited for more than one month. Early medical intervention is the best way to treat PTSD. This will save you a lot of physical and emotional trouble. The National Center for PTSD has published a study showing that PTSD can result in heart problems. As a trucker, you need to have a healthy heart or else it will be impossible to work in a demanding environment.
It is important to note that anyone can develop PTSD. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 31.3 million people develop PTSD. Women seem to be highly susceptible to PTSD. Data published by HHS shows women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. Up to 80 percent of people who experience severe trauma end up with PTSD symptoms. These statistics show that PTSD is not a scourge affecting military veterans alone. Certain individuals may or may not develop PTSD depending on exposure to certain risk factors. Traumatic events that occur over a long period will most certainly result in PTSD symptoms. Acts that are intentionally perpetrated by other people also carry a high PTSD risk. This includes physical assault, rape, and neglect. Veterans who experienced traumatic experiences as children will find it difficult to cope with stressful combat situations. The same is true for veterans with a family history of depression, physical abuse, drug abuse, and PTSD. Continuous stress in daily life will make you a PTSD candidate. There are people who cope well after a traumatic event. If you find it hard to cope well after such events, the risk of developing PTSD is very high. As a veteran truck driver, you may lack the necessary support after going through trauma. This makes the situation even worse.
The good news is PTSD treatment can help you live life to the fullest. Treatment is geared towards helping you regain emotional and physical balance. Treatment usually involves a combination of medical intervention and psychotherapy. Your doctor will help you to learn how to cope with trauma event triggers. Some of the tools used include expressing your fears about the event and coping with the memories. The following are some of the psychotherapy approaches employed.
• Group therapy This is carried out by a counselor in a setting where people with similar PTSD symptoms talk about personal experiences. This will help you open up and stop bottling up fear and anger. As a trucker, you will find this avenue offers a chance to trust other people in the same situation.
• Family therapy PTSD affects the person who is going through the trauma experience as well as family members. Working with loved ones can be productive and lead to healing within a short time. The support and love provided by family members can be the difference between hopelessness and healing. Communication during this difficult period is vital. • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) This is a new approach that encompasses aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Your treatment sessions include learning how to manipulate information-processing systems. This comes in handy when you are about to relive the same experience once again.
• Exposure Therapy This involves reliving the same experience in a controlled environment. Your doctor may introduce objects that trigger flashbacks. This is done with the aim of helping you come face to face with the anxiety-causing event. This technique has been used to treat PTSD in many veterans.
Doctors also prescribe a wide range of medications to treat PTSD. The medicines are used to control anxiety and depression. Your doctor will prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, and Elavil. Other medications include mood stabilizers such as Lamictal, tranquilizers such as Ativan, and neuroleptics such as Seroquel. All of these will help make you to be less irritable and worried. There are many organizations ready to help veterans struggling with PTSD. Healing will not happen overnight. It takes treatment, taking positive steps to avoid hopelessness, and having a support network around you. It is wise to practice relaxation techniques. These will come in handy whenever you are in a stressful situation. You must avoid negative influences and drugs like the plaque. Occupy your time with pleasant activities to avoid negative thoughts creeping into your mind. Isolation is the worst enemy you can entertain.
This Article is for all the Veterans out there. On this Memorial Day weekend let us not forget the sacrafice they gave for our freedom.
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