In this article on Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the symptoms of PTSD are discussed along with reasons why, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IMNA), some people do not seek help.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies explains that PTSD is described as one of the foremost signature injuries of the U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq by military personnel.
However, like many national organizations, the number one challenge in successfully noting numbers of people affected with the disorder, treated for the disorder and followed up with to determine success or failure of treatment, is continuous monitoring of those with PTSD.
In order for someone with PTSD to begin a program for care, the PTSD has to first be recognized. Whether it’s a sister, a spouse, a friend, a relative, it’s usually someone close to the person with PTSD who sees the signs that something is wrong.
Symptoms of PTSD
Individuals manifest PTSD in many different ways and the symptoms can vary greatly. There are many symptoms that may occur for many reasons. Here are just a few symptoms that your loved ones may be exhibiting upon returning home from having worked overseas in a war zone for a Department of Defense contractor.
- Reliving the traumatic event
Sufferers of PTSD may experience nightmares or flashbacks of the original event. Triggers–events that cause a sudden reminder of the trauma or the event—may bring this on.
The triggers can be simple, every day occurrences, but because of the memory evoked, the reminder or alert instead triggers the trauma, or the memory of trauma. For example, if you experienced trauma from an improvised explosive device (IED), similar loud noises such as thunder or fireworks may trigger responses to the traumatic event.
- Avoiding people, places or events that are reminders of the original event
You may find it difficult to visit places that remind you of the trauma that you experienced. For example, if you experienced an explosion in a marketplace, you may find it difficult or even impossible to go to a farmer’s market.
You may avoid talking to a person who was with you during the explosion for fear they may cause you to have a memory of what happened to you. You may not want to ever think of the terror experienced so you’ll forever avoid that person.
- Inability to express feelings
After you go through something life-threatening, you may find it difficult to relate to people – even those you were at one time very close to.
You may also lose interest in activities that you enjoyed at one time. This may be the mind’s way of avoiding memories—any memories—of the past, thereby keeping the reminder of the trauma in the past.
- Frequent episodes of nervousness or irritability
When people are in dangerous situations, they learn to remain on high alert and on watch so that they may be prepared to handle or ward off danger.
However remaining in a constant state of preparedness for the worst is exhausting and hard on the psyche and on the body.
Once removed from the situation, you may find you still feel the need to be on constant alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. This can cause elevated levels of anxiety and as a result, you may find yourself unable to sleep or you may be jumpy when caught off guard.
Other Symptoms of PTSD
The National Institute for Mental Health references other symptoms of PTSD including:
- Extreme isolation and a wall of impenetrable silence
- Exhibiting physical symptoms of fear, anxiety, terror for no reason
- People suffering with PTSD may have difficulty in relationships
- Severe or slight depression
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Sudden or increased use of alcohol and or drugs
- Constant anxiety or worry of events that will never likely occur
- Worrying about the safety of family members who are not in war zones
- Un-natural fear for safety around vehicles
Why People Do Not Seek Help for PTSD
There are many reasons why people do not seek treatment for PTSD including the inability to recognize that there is a change in personality or behavior.
A person who has a high level of confidence may find it difficult and see that there is still a stigma against those who seek help for mental health issues.
Research is shedding more light on the causes and treatment for PTSD and with more public understanding and open dialog, it is getting easier for people to see they are not alone.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately 5 million people in the United States may suffer from PTSD. Some 15-30% of the 3.5 million men and women who served in Vietnam have suffered from PTSD.
Individuals may not recognize the symptoms or may fear repercussion in their personal lives if they undergo diagnosis and treatment for PTSD. People fear losing their jobs, having their personal medical history scrutinized or simply worry about what others will think.
The cost for treatment is also a reason many people decide not to seek help. Even with individuals who have been receiving medical benefits, medical treatment, and compensation, may not understand what, if any, mental health benefits they have available to them.
War-time Civilians with PTSD
Civilians working for U.S. Contractors in support of U.S. efforts overseas have medical and disability compensation insurance provided under the Defense Base Act. Mental health claims are compensable under the Defense Base Act.
At Garfinkel Schwartz, we want our clients to know they have these benefits available to them when they need them and that there is no shame in asking for help. If you don’t know how to begin the process, consult with us. If you don’t consult with us, that’s OK, but please do consult with an experienced attorney who practices Defense Base Act law.
Warning Signs of PTSD
On-the-job injuries mean time off from work or reduced income; these injuries affect the entire family. Because of the severity of the symptoms, a PTSD-related injury can be even more devastating the family dynamic and the relationships within the family.
It is normal to experience some of the symptoms of PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. When the symptoms stay or recur after a few weeks, it is an indicator that the suffering from PTSD is not going to just go away.
However, normal reaction to trauma does not last forever. If symptoms worsen, become more intense or recur with greater frequency, it’s important that the person suffering should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and recommended treatment.
PTSD does not always happen immediately. For some, it may happen years after the exposure to the trauma. Regardless when the symptoms appear, they are a signal it is time to get help.
If you find yourself thinking about hurting yourself or others, get help immediately. Call your local crisis or suicide hotline. There is help available.
If you have questions about the Defense Base Act law and how to get help to regain lost medical care needed for PTSD medications, treatment and help, call Garfinkel Schwartz.
If you are the loved one who is trying to help a family member after an injury or traumatic experience while working as a civilian contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan or other areas of conflict overseas, call Garfinkel Schwartz. We fight for your rights, one family at a time.