For those who are unfamiliar, post-traumatic stress disorder is a collection of symptoms that can develop after a person survives an extreme, dangerous, or frightening incident. It may be a one-time event, such as a car accident or physical assault, or it may be an ongoing high stress situation, such as living or serving in a war zone. It is estimated that up to 20% of those who served in military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. People who develop the disorder often have unwanted thoughts or memories associated with the event. This can lead to a persistent undercurrent of anxiety or discomfort.
People living with PTSD often describe feeling numb, detached or separated from their emotions, and unable to resume the rhythms of daily life. They can jump easily, have trouble sleeping, have repeated nightmares, feel unsafe in ordinary situations, and suffer from depression. Treatment focuses on a mixture of short and long term psychotherapy and the use of medication.
When it comes to your sister’s reluctance to discuss PTSD with you, know that you are not alone. Some people associate a diagnosis of PTSD with being weak or damaged. Others fear that instead of helping, treatment may make the trauma worse. Veterans who are not ready to seek professional help may be willing to explore peer support. One helpful resource, which is part of the Department of Defense and offers free and confidential advice to veterans and their families, is Military Onesource. You can find the group at Militaryonesource.mil.
Send your questions to [email protected], or write to: Ask the Doctors, c / o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024.
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