Most combat veterans---and veterans exposed to other atrocities---startle easily, feel unsafe in crowds, re-experience painful memories with daytime flashbacks and/or nightmares, and are easily enraged because their survival brain is doing its job.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not a mental illness, but a normal, predictable, biological reaction to the stressors of combat and other traumatic events that causes such pain and suffering that we now face long-lasting internal battles which persist well after departure from the battlefield.
You’re different since returning home? Can’t sleep? Have nightmares? Can’t trust civilians anymore? Need your back to the wall when you go out to public places? Jump at loud noises? Feel unsafe without a weapon? Everyday stuff seems tranquil and trite? Small annoyances set you off? Feeling aggressive always ready to defend or fight? Drinking to calm the swirling and raging thoughts permeating your mind? People telling you it’s ok to seek help, to admit you have “PTSD“, but being labeled as “crazy” or being mentally ill, just doesn’t seem right?
Jim, a strapping former Marine who did 12 months in Iraq, can't leave his apartment. When he tries, vivid picture memories of suicide bombers and exploding bodies slide into his brain. He feels crazy. So, late at night, crowds gone, he stealthily shops then heads home pronto. He can't stand in line, can't tolerate crowds. Why? No strangers allowed near you, certainly not behind you. That's what kept him alive in Iraq. Kids aren't safe either. His best buddy was killed when an Iraqi family, kids and all, asked him for help then blew themselves and him up. Jim saw it happen, and helped put his buddy's remains in a body bag.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): We are all just one step away from what is currently called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The hyper-vigilance (having your brain’s alarm on high alert continuously), flashbacks (daytime picture memories, played like a movie while you’re awake), nightmares, emotional numbing, terror and/or rage provoked by the small everyday events of life, all of this is what PTSD is. For as long as man has fought wars, and cataclysmic events have unfolded around the globe there has been PTSD. In the military arena it has been called many things-soldiers heart, battle fatigue, shell shock, to name just a few. It was not until 1980 that it became officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), given the name PTSD, and defined as a mental disorder.
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