PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a common challenge for veterans. It affects everyone differently. For the nearly 8 million Americans who live with PTSD, finding ways to cope can be difficult and overwhelming, especially when symptoms last for weeks, months, or even years.
Over time, PTSD can have significant changes on the body, particularly if it is left untreated. Veterans are at heightened risk for the disorder, which can cause flashbacks of stressful events, nightmares, isolation from family and friends, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. For this reason, it’s imperative that those who have lived through a traumatic event seek help as soon as possible in order to be diagnosed and seek treatment.
Scientists believe that when the brain perceives a threat and adrenaline is released and cortisol can’t keep up with the amount, the body can train itself to stay in that mode long after the event, causing the individual to relive it through stress. This can cause long-term changes in the brain and can affect the way it functions.
Other physical changes can include heightened hearing (due to “hypervigilance,” a condition in which the individual is always on the lookout for danger) and a quickened heart rate, an after-effect of the increase in adrenaline the body produces. Flashbacks can take a toll on the body as well, as continued stress moves into depression and affects sleeping and eating habits.
Of course, emotions take a heavy toll with PTSD as well. Some victims of this mental health issue have trouble forming emotional bonds with people after their trauma and have difficulty functioning within a family. Others simply find that numbing themselves to feelings is the easiest way to get through the day, and over time, it’s more and more difficult for them to feel any true emotions.
Some sufferers develop substance abuse problems and find it hard to be around others or to be in public or social situations. These behaviors have lasting effects on the sufferer and can lead to suicidal thoughts or risky behaviors.
There are various treatments for PTSD, including medication, therapy, or a combination of both. It’s important for sufferers to seek help with a trained professional so that treatment can be tailored according to how much they have been affected physically, whether substance abuse is involved, and how long symptoms have manifested themselves.
If someone you love is living with PTSD and you suspect they might be suffering from depression or any of the symptoms listed above, don’t be afraid to start a conversation about your concerns. Let your loved one know that you’re there for them and will help them find a counselor or group therapy session so they can begin to heal.
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