PTSD is not some new dis-ease, it even existed in the early days of the existance of human development. While the condition is more commonly associated with:
- Military Service personnel
- Fire brigade
- Triage and medicine
- Media correspondents, and
- Victims of Natural Disasters
Many are repeatedly subjected to tragic events that can cause PTSD.
In fact, nearly all of us can experience some sort of tragic event that will challenge our senses. This can have just a short-term effect or it could be long lasting, depending on the person and the event. Prevalence in military services. In the case of Military
personnel, up to 30% of war zone Veterans will experience some of the symptoms with half of these becoming chronic.
PTSD in the military is a psychological condition caused by one or more intensive traumatic events, especially those that are potentially life threatening. PTSD, as it is now called, came to prominence in 1980 amongst Vietnam War Veterans.
But the condition itself, under different names, dates back to Ancient Greece. It is referred to in Shakespeare and then in writings about the American Civil War, WW1 and WW2.
More recently, with the high media profile of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and embedded journalists’ stories, the mental anguish experienced by our serving soldiers and Veterans is becoming more and more common. PTSD is also
featuring quite often in American, British and Australian crime and medical television series.
The majority of sufferers of PTSD have contracted the condition while serving their country in combat situations or helping their fellow Australians in tragic circumstances. They have all witnessed sights or experienced fear, which
is not normal in everyday life.
In the case of serving military personnel or Veterans, more often than not, they believe they are ‘’bullet proof’’
and any suggestion of a mental condition is taboo. As a result, they do not willingly seek help.
Symptoms; The symptoms of PSTD include:
- Sleep disturbance including dreams and nightmares
- 'Flashbacks' - intrusive memories and feelings
detachment - 'coldness'
- Social withdrawal
- Self-preoccupation and/or egocentric behaviour
- Avoidance of reminders associated with trauma
- Moods swings
- Anxiety, panic attacks
- Continual alertness for future emotional or physical threats
- Physiological reaction such as headaches, stomach upsets,
- Poor concentration, loss of confidence
- Alcohol and other drug abuse
PTSD is often only
noticed after there is a pronounced change in a person's behaviour. At first the change is subtle, developing until it occurs more commonly and more rapidly.
It begins with situational stresses until these reach
the personal threshold level, where the traumatised person is pre-occupied and overwhelmed by the previous trauma.
The individual becomes less able to deal with stress, frustration and anticipated difficulties.
Their often highly irritated demeanour is increasingly triggered by trivial events.
They 'switch off', becoming emotionally detached and losing interest in family matters. Clear patterns of emotional isolation develop,
and depressive patterns become more frequent and pronounced.
Anxiety patterns also become more frequent and pronounced, to the stage of worrying about things which have been done so often they should be automatic,
and developing into panic attacks.
PTSD is the normal reaction to abnormal events. It is not related to race, religion, skin colour, education, class or culture. It is episodic, with situational stress bringing on feelings related to the traumatic
event. Less commonly, it can link into other psychiatric predispositions such as manic behaviour.
Triggers are part of the re-experiencing phenomena displayed by those who suffer from PTSD. They are often unbidden,
occurring without warning. Triggers are not just physical prompts, but can also be emotional, occurring when the individual is placed in a situation where the same emotion is experienced. These emotional triggers include guilt, fear, or lack of control, and
they are just as strong as physical triggers.
Triggers occur unpredictably, and as a result the veteran and his or her family can be greatly concerned and confused. Sleep disturbance often results and there are very strong 'fight or flight' reactions.
Common triggers include:
Specific scenes - crowded streets, sunsets, sunrises, familiar clothing
- Movement - someone rushing towards the individual
- TV - even if the story is unreal, the subject or the environment may cause thoughts
which act as a trigger
- Sound - helicopters, songs, unexpected loud noises
- Smell - jungle or bush, rain, smoke, blood, cordite or explosives
- Reading- or discussion about subjects of trauma
- Touch - gun metal, webbing, blood
- Situational - being crowded, walking across open spaces, feeling vulnerable or not in control
Substance abuse is common, and simply another sign that the individual is not coping. Self-medication with alcohol
or other illegal drugs, far from masking intrusive memories, actually accesses them. Abuse of prescribed medication is also common.
Lifestyle; PTSD often leads to problematic
lifestyles long before veterans or their families are aware that they are suffering PTSD. Problems with relationships, substance abuse or similar problems often arise, and are commonly misdiagnosed as personality disorders, anxiety, depression or bi-polar
affective disorders. These problems are often episodic or cyclical, and can precipitate PTSD patterns.
Individuals often become overwhelmed by PTSD symptoms, and can think only of themselves, and how to survive
the situation. This behaviour may have a bad effect on relationships, including those at home and at work.
Veterans often have trouble at work in coping with real or perceived pressure, frustration, the actions
of others, and their emotions about these things.
Medication on its own is often not sufficient to improve psychological function.
Options to discuss with a VVCS counsellor, local doctor or psychiatrist include counselling, group work, outpatient or inpatient hospital treatment.
Medication and its effects should be discussed with a doctor
and pharmacist, and partners should be involved in this discussion. A method of managing medication through Medi-list is available through the VVCS or DVA.
The purpose of meditation is to make our psychic/emotional body calm and peaceful by removing all negative blockages.
If we are
peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; a sense of calmness but if we are not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions.
If we train/practice in meditation, our psychic/emotional body will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience
a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Usually we find it difficult to control our emotions. It seems as if we are like a balloon in the wind -
blown here and there by external circumstances. If things go well, we are calm and happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. For example, if we get what we want, such as a new possession or a new partner, we become excited and cling
to them tightly.
However, since we cannot have everything we want, and since we will inevitably be separated from the friends and possessions we currently enjoy, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us pain. If we do
not get what we want, or if we lose something that we like, we become despondent or irritated.
For example, if we are forced to work with a colleague whom we dislike, we will probably become irritated and feel aggrieved, with the result that we
will be unable to work with him or her efficiently and our time at work will become stressful and unrewarding.
Such fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation. We are like a child making a sand castle
who is excited when it is first made, but who becomes upset when it is destroyed by the incoming tide.
By practicing meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our self regardless of the external circumstances.
Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balance that is happy all the time, rather than a psychic/emotionaal body that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency.
If we work with self in meditation systematically,
eventually we will be able to eradicate from self the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, a sence of calmness known as "liberation" or "nirvana". Then, day and night
in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.