Thursday, December 14

Ptsd Not Just War Related

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For many years war veterans were known to suffer from the psychological effects of war combat.
In the early 20th century around the time of World War I and World War II the civilian and military mental health community coined the phrase “battle fatigue” to describe the mental effect that prolonged exposure to war combat had on the mental state of soldiers.
This term accurately described what the human brain experienced as it was put through the rigors of constant combat situations.
The brain would tire or fatigue due to the constant mental strain of being in a life or death situation leaving it in a weakened state that put it in a position to “snap” or “break down” much like a piece of metal which was bent back and forth until it fatigues and then breaks.
These mental “breakdowns” were common among many soldiers who served during World War II including two of my uncles who served in the U.S. Army at that time.
Soldiers who participated in some of the most grueling and bloody battles like the Anzio (Italy) beach landing and the battle for control of the Philippines, came out of the confrontations battle-scarred mentally.
Even though America had fought in previous wars World War II seem to produce some soldier related issues that had not been seen before or at least had not been paid attention to.
During World War II it seemed that more and more soldiers were noticed to be suffering from the mental strain of war.
Military mental health personnel as well as many family and friends of soldiers noticed that those who had spent prolonged periods of time on the battlefields of Europe found it difficult to adjust when they found themselves back in normal situations in American society.
Many soldiers were experiencing nightmares that came to be known as “hot flashes” where they would flashback in their mind to a battlefield situation and wake up thinking that they were back in that place or time.
Some even had these flashbacks while totally conscious.
This was a phenomenon that had not been seen before in soldiers who had experienced war and the military as well as civilian mental health community scrambled to understand and figure out what to do about the problem.
There were horror stories of soldiers “snapping” and killing their own families or attacking innocent citizens who were perceived to be “the enemy.”
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to just those who have been exposed to the rigors of battlefield conflict. It is a very real affliction among those who have been exposed to conflict on any number of domestic battlefields.
Any one who has suffered through years of physical, emotional, or domestic spousal abuse is, in my opinion, a candidate to suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Constant conflict of any kind puts a strain on the mental capacity of your brain to constantly adjust to high levels of stress followed by low levels of calm.
And just like in war, you do not know when it will come or how long it will last which creates an atmosphere of anxiety around you that resembles PTSD.
I do not have facts, figures or research studies to back me up on this but if you think about it those who come out of domestic abuse situations like a battered wife or a sexually abused child often demonstrate symptoms similar to a soldier suffering PTSD.
Nightmares, anxiety, paranoia, flashbacks and insomnia are all symptoms of PTSD and many domestic abuse victims share these symptoms with battle-scarred soldiers.
The military, through research and trial and error, have gotten a pretty good handle on how to deal with soldiers suffering with PTSD. Many are able to reinsert themselves back into their regular lives and society after going through the military’s program.
The unfortunate thing is, the military is still slow to act in diagnosing the problem and in some cases hesitant to test soldiers who may be suffering from it.
Though it may be hard to believe, there is still a stigma attached to a soldier admitting that he might have a “mental” problem. In some military circles he will be perceived as weak or not fit to be in the service.
In some reported instances, some soldiers have been refused testing or “put on hold” indefinitely.
Just like battle fatigue was a new phenomenon that surfaced during World War II, domestic issue related PTSD is a new phenomenon.
Many victims and even some medical personnel do not recognize the phenomena.
Only someone who has had experience with it and knows the symptoms and characteristics of it can recognize it’s presence in someone.
I recognize the similarities and I hope those who are responsible for overseeing the mental health of our society see the similarities as well.

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