Monday, December 19, 2011

PTSD: does this story sound like you?

I look at the cause of domestic violence as a war. We have an enemy; every day the enemy wounds ten thousand, and every year he kills more than a thousand. By contrast, eight years of war in Iraq cost less -- 4400 U.S. combat deaths and 31,000 wounded, total. And even the survivors of the domestic violence war suffer terribly, especially from PTSD, just like soldiers. So today I read an article about an Iraq veteran dealing with PTSD after returning home, and I thought a lot of it sounded familiar.

The soldier in question was ambushed in Iraq, and shot in the head and leg (and DV victims absolutely get ambushed and shot too). He came home with serious PTSD. He had nightmares, reliving the trauma, trying to figure out what he should have done differently. He was terrified of being alone, and felt guilt as well. He began to have trouble communicating and remembering. He had trouble controlling his anger. He suspected he had PTSD but tried to deny it.

He eventually learned that PTSD can stem not only from battlefield trauma but any prolonged emotional shock. So it doesn’t only affect vets: it also affects millions of others following abuse, assault, disasters and accidents, and prolonged feelings that their lives are in danger (and I know THAT sounds familiar). And it affects twice as many women as men (and I think we all know what some of the reasons are).

Even after the trauma is over, it can take two or three years to adjust to the new, safer life. PTSD can impair reasoning, emotional balance, memory, and cause nightmares, insomnia, violence and headaches. It can include intolerance of mistakes, and ignoring their own pain and emotion. They feel no one understands and no one listens. Marriages break up, domestic abuse increases, sufferers drink and do drugs, they can’t hold a job so they end up homeless, hopeless, suicidal; they are unable to find help from the system, which is now overburdened financially. Sometimes they are overmedicated which makes them dopey, or undermedicated which means the symptoms come back.

The healing begins when the effective therapies are used: talking through the trauma, writing about it, visiting the places where it happened, going to loud and stressful places to desensitize the patient, making it possible for the patient to relive the trauma in a more detached way, so that he can “pack it away” in a sort of mental closet. Also, relaxing so you can reduce the adrenalin and get some sleep, and using medicines. The article stresses that treatment takes time and that the syndrome never goes away: you can’t really “cure” it but you can manage it. And it’s good, all the way around, to help others in the same fix.

So...does this sound like you?

Here’s the link --

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