PTSD Mental Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is among only a few mental disorders that are triggered by a disturbing outside event, unlike other psychiatric disorders such as depression. Many Americans experience individual traumatic events ranging from car and airplane accidents to sexual assault and domestic violence. Other experiences, including those associated with natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, affect multiple people simultaneously.

Dramatic and tragic events, like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and wars occur, and with media exposure such as we have today, even people not directly involved might be affected. Simply put, PTSD is a state in which you “can’t stop remembering.” For example, Vietnam Veterans who “can’t stop remembering” the traumatic events of firefights, and other horrific war scenes.

The typical symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, emotional detachment, hypervigilance, night sweats, and extreme efforts to avoid stimuli that reminds one of the traumatic events. Also prevalent are:

  • Flashbacks: Imagine experiencing the most terrifying horror movie you’ve ever seen playing over and over in your mind. You can’t make the images go away. These are the flashbacks so commonly associated with PTSD and usually are thought of in connection with combat veterans in war.
  • Emotional detachment: Emotional detachment is a second symptom of PTSD, which is often not as obvious outwardly to anyone other than the person experiencing it. For these people, their emotional systems are in overdrive. They have a hard time being a loving family member. They avoid activities, places, and people associated with the traumatic event. They are simply drained emotionally and have trouble functioning every day.
  • Recurring Dreams of trauma.
  • An exaggerated startle response to stimuli that reminds one of trauma.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Bunkering down — what war veterans do to prepare for battle. (Example: a war veteran who stays in his garage for excessive periods of time preparing for battle.)

Veterans experiencing the above symptoms should know the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has dumped a policy requiring combat veterans to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before filing a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the past, a veteran had to provide written verification such as a statement from a commander, doctor, psychologist, or testimony from family, friends, co-workers, and war buddies, that the veteran was involved in a traumatic war-time event in order to receive disability compensation for PTSD from VA. Accordingly, the Department of Defense (DoD) uses the same rules in evaluating PTSD for disability retirement pay for active duty service members. In the future, veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD through a medical examination with no further proof necessary.

For Internet assistance, go to your local county library. For questions concerning veterans benefits and to obtain needed forms call Georgia Henry, Avery County Veterans Service Office, at (828) 733-8211. Comments can be emailed to Jim Sramek at averycountydav@gmail.com.

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