Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem affecting people who have experienced a shocking, scary, dangerous traumatic event.
It can affect people who have been directly involved in an event and those who’ve witnessed one. Later in life, maybe after providing military service or work overseas as a civilian contractor, there are reactions to a seemingly innocent event.
A car backfires. A loud noise startles you. You cringe or feel like something awful is going to happen. Your body tightens and the fear is overwhelming. This is not your usual reaction but you can’t seem to control it. Your heart is pounding. Your pulse is racing, you’re sweating and feel ready to run and get to a safe place.
What is PTSD?
First in a Series on PTSD
What is PTSD? Post traumatic stress disorder can include flashbacks to feelings of terror or trauma when your body actually felt extreme duress including physical and mental changes and injuries.
PTSD is the after-shock, the reactions you may have to instances triggered by sounds, sights, nightmares. It’s as if you’re experiencing a war or combat or another trauma all over again.
Your body naturally wants you to be protected from harm. So when a “trigger” occurs, whether it’s a loud noise, or a scream, a siren, anything that’s loud or sometimes even ordinary, like a garage door closing. A train passing, a garbage truck crashing closed, those sounds can cause you to physically and mentally go back to a moment when you experienced a horrific event. At this point, it’s a normal experience to feel what’s called “fight or flight.”
Fight or flight causes a surge of adrenaline to run through your body when for whatever reason you feel threatened or frightened. It can be a completely unintentional and unconscious reaction to a seemingly normal sound or visual.
The unnatural reaction is that your heart races, you sweat, your muscles tense, your body reacts in an extremely intense way so that you know you’re in danger. You may not be at all but your body is telling you to run, get to safety, hide…or fight.
But if the stress, fear and other symptoms after that event or experience last long after the physical danger is present, then you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. You are not alone.
PTSD has touched 8 in 100 People
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder estimates that 8 in every 100 people will experience the condition at some point in their lives. Those affected include People who have been in car accidents, victims of violent crimes, sexual assault or child abuse, can experience this. People who have lost loved ones unexpectedly can experience this.
In the World War I generation, soldiers returning home from the battlefield were thought to have shell shock or what many today would call post-traumatic stress disorder.
Civilian Contractors and PTSD
But it’s not just soldiers who experience the problems associated with PTSD. Civilian contractors are exposed to danger in war zones throughout the world and can experience or be witness to attacks, explosions, kidnappings, death and all manner of violence and chaos.
2.1+ Million Civilian Contractors
There are often three to four times the number of Civilian Contractors to every one U.S. troop member. According to figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Labor as of January 2017 there were over 2.1 million civilian federal workers. This means that contractors overseas in hot zones are exposed to violence and danger and will need to get the support needed to deal with stress on the job.
What Happens with PTSD?
The Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as intrusive memories such as flashbacks, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and moods, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
Examples of Avoidance
An example of avoidance is not wanting to drive if you’re reminded of a bad experience driving in combat. Examples of physical and emotional reactions would be difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, or having angry outbursts at small annoyances.
Symptoms of PTSD Struggle
Again, if you experience these symptoms of avoiding stress triggers for a short period, say for a month after the event, this could be a normal reaction and can be healed with time, the support of family and friends and perhaps counseling. But if the symptoms linger, and they’re causing an inability to function and carry out daily activities or problems in relationships, please seek medical help to see if you have post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are many more civilian contractors working in global conflicts today than there are military personnel. Brave contractors witness and experience firsthand the violence taking place in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. They are at risk of someday experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Know Before You Go
If you’re facing a dangerous assignment overseas, talk to an attorney before you go so that you will know what your rights are and how to proceed the moment you get injured or start experiencing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brian Wiklendt is lead counsel for Garfinkel Schwartz, a Maitland, Florida law firm. Brian works in all 50 states and talks to clients all over the world. Brian will offer honest, down-to-earth information about the Defense Base Act and fight for you to get coverage for medical treatments or receive disability payments if you need them. Contact him or Doreen Cabral, paralegal, at 800-393-2999 or via email at Brian@DefenseBaseActLaw.com.