By: Andrew MacKinnon, MD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health concern that can affect the entire body, a common diagnosis in veterans.
Developing PTSD involves living in a stressful environment for extended periods of time. Specifically people that are on deployments longer than six months.
It’s a different stress on your body and everyone deals with it in some way. Some people ignore it and suppress it and other people have physical signs and symptoms.
PTSD Can Affect a Veteran’s Everyday Life After They Return Home
PTSD symptoms might appear right after a stressful and traumatic event, or they can appear later when the veteran is exposed to a trigger. PTSD can cause a person to have persistently distressing thoughts and sensations, which might take the form of intrusive thoughts or flashbacks to the traumatic incident.
Many veterans describe nightmares, as well as feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger. They often feel detached, even from their own families. PTSD can cause veterans to avoid situations, places, and noises that remind them of the trauma they faced. Something as simple as a dropped plate or fireworks could startle them or trigger flashbacks. Minor problems may set off a panic, with the veteran experiencing a “fight or flight” response when there is no real danger.
PTSD Can Also Cause Veterans to Suffer Physical Symptoms
In some cases, PTSD may cause a veteran to develop physical symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association, veterans can experience a number of troubling—and disabling—health concerns related to their PTSD. Some of these physical symptoms may include: high blood pressure, increased heart rate, fatigue, muscle tension, nausea and headaches.
Many people with PTSD may not connect their aches, pains, and fatigue with their PTSD diagnosis and others may recognize the pain in an area where they previously suffered a traumatic injury, and it will cause additional mental health concerns related to their PTSD.
PTSD may also be a factor in a higher risk of depression, alcohol abuse, prescription medication abuse, drug abuse, diabetes, and even early death. As researchers, clinicians, and veterans get a deeper understanding of the systemic impacts of PTSD, it becomes clear why therapy is so important.
Veterans Crisis Line – Open to the public, free and open 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Call to get tips and to be connected to local mental health professionals — no matter the situation.
PTSD is a serious and often overlooked issue that clouds veterans. Talk to your doctor and know the symptoms and challenges before you throw caution to the wind. Stay in touch with friends and family over the phone or online. Give your loved ones at home a hug and let them know what they mean to you.