Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impacts military veterans all over the country. The Vietnam War alone caused nearly 500,000 cases of PTSD. More recently, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused 12.5% of vets serving in the war to develop symptoms of PTSD.
This mental health condition is common among military members. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult things they’ll ever have to go through. If you are a family member or friend of someone with a military background, it can be difficult for you to fully understand how it feels. That can be frustrating because it makes it challenging to know how to help the person you care about.
Anyone can experience PTSD after going through a traumatic event. Military members who develop the disorder have had to see, do, and experience things that most of us never will. They may have certain triggers that cause flashbacks or other symptoms, and it never gets easier seeing someone you love struggling to get through the day.
So, what can you do to support veterans suffering from PTSD?
1. Familiarize Yourself With Symptoms
One of the best ways to connect with veterans about PTSD is to have a better understanding of the symptoms. Symptoms can vary for everyone, but some of the most common signs are:
- Irritation or easily agitated
- Isolated behavior
- Difficulty in relationships
- Emotional detachment
If any veterans you know are displaying any of these signs, it could be an indicator that they’re dealing with a traumatic event. If their personalities seem completely different from what they were before, don’t take it lightly. They may need help to get through the trauma still playing out in their minds.
2. Educate Yourself on Treatment Options
Not only should you get to know some of the common symptoms of PTSD, but you should know some of the best treatment options, too. When people have PTSD, it’s hard for them to trust. If they let you in and indicate that they need help, you should be ready with options.
Therapy is often very beneficial for vets, including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a type of therapy that focuses on letting go of the traumatic event as it plays out in the mind and restructuring the way it impacts the person going through it.
Thanks to advancements in technology, new developments are being made all the time to help vets dealing with PTSD. Virtual reality programs are even being used to modify responses, thoughts, and behaviors when surrounded by a triggering experience.
3. Encourage Self-Care
Self-care is more than just a buzzword, especially when it comes to maintaining emotional health. While some type of professional treatment is usually the best way to go for people dealing with PTSD, there are also daily things they can do to self-soothe and manage their symptoms. Some of these activities include:
- Deep breathing exercises
In addition, pursuing a minimalist lifestyle may help individuals achieve greater mental clarity and emotional balance. People often associate personal possessions with certain events or times of life. For people with PTSD, these can potentially be triggering. By focusing on the essentials and trimming clutter from your life, you can focus on the things that truly matter.
While these approaches won’t necessarily get rid of the effects of PTSD, they can help to ease some of the more severe symptoms. Some veterans who don’t take proper care of their mental health turn to other ways of coping, like drinking or drugs. This leads to them having a harder time keeping their families together or finding a job, which is one of the big reasons 8.6% of the homeless population in the United States is made up of vets.
4. Connect Veterans You Know to Other Vets
Veterans with PTSD can often feel alone in their grief and despair. They might try to isolate themselves and withdraw from relationships. They might even be apathetic to things they used to enjoy doing. It can be hard to connect with veterans suffering from PTSD because there’s no way you can fully understand what they went through.
But you can encourage them to talk to someone who does.
There are peer support groups all across the country designed to bring veterans suffering from PTSD together to talk about their experiences. These support groups cover the struggles of daily living while encouraging trust in other people (something that is often lost through a traumatic event). While these groups aren’t a substitute for treatment, they can help struggling vets to feel a little better about the life they’re living.
5. Show Compassion When You Listen
If the veteran in your life does want to open up and talk about his or her experiences, show compassion in the way you listen. You might feel uncomfortable listening to the things this person had to go through. However, you should listen to your vet’s experience and take it for what it is without interjecting your own opinions or trying to compare your own life experiences.
It’s okay to ask questions when the time is appropriate, but use consideration when doing so. Don’t suggest to vets with PTSD how they should be feeling or what they could do differently. Instead, ask them how they feel. Let them know you’re there to listen without judging them.
Showing support for veterans suffering from PTSD isn’t easy. It will be a long journey for both of you, but showing that support and being there for your vet with PTSD in every sense of the word is the best thing you can do. With help, support, and encouragement over time, many veterans can go on to learn how to manage the symptoms of this disorder and find mental and emotional balance.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
Image Source: Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.