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Understanding PTSD in Young Veterans
PSTD in Young Veterans
Many of our nation’s Veterans who have come home from Afghanistan and Iraq experienced traumatic events while serving in combat zones. They may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But it is often difficult for a young man or woman who remains physically strong to admit he or she has a problem. It can be even tougher to confront when the issue is a psychological illness.
Often it is up to those closest to a young Veteran to recognize the difficulties their loved one is experiencing as the Vet transitions back to civilian life.
U.S. Veterans Magazine says the unique challenges of separating from military service and returning to civilian life include:
- Reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family
- Entering the civilian workforce for the first time, which is more competitive than collaborative and less dedicated to completing the mission
- Adjusting to life with its vast array of choices.
These challenges are made exponentially more difficult for a Veteran facing the mental challenges of an undiagnosed case of PTSD.
An analysis of previous research by PLOS One, a scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, found that PTSD risk can arise after returning home and is often based on various post-deployment factors.
“The first step involves educating yourself about how someone with PTSD typically reacts,” Maryville University says in Understanding a Veteran with PTSD.
Young Military Veterans and PTSD Symptoms
The JAMA Psychiatry journal reported on a young Veteran referred by his VA primary care provider to an outpatient mental health clinic due to concerns about PTSD and depression. The Veteran had served in the military for four years, including a six-month tour in Iraq as an assault vehicle operator. He had been involved in frequent foot patrols and reported numerous traumatic experiences, including:
- Frequent receipt of incoming fire
- Multiple ambushes
- An IED explosion that injured several fellow soldiers.
The young Vet denied having had psychiatric issues prior to military service but reported that since returning home, he had disturbing thoughts about the combat experiences every day.
Issues he reported included:
- Highly distressing thoughts
- Frequent violent nightmares
- Feelings of numbness and withdrawal from others
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Always feeling “on guard.”
- Being given to startling easily
- Angry outbursts
- Intense guilt over not detecting the IED and protecting his comrades
- Feelings of hopelessness.
He said certain routine activities such as walking down a street triggered intense memories of being in Iraq and induced panic-like symptoms such as fear, anxiety and feeling shaky.
These mirror PTSD symptoms discussed by the Mayo Clinic, which groups them as:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Common Treatments and Healing from PTSD
After understanding what a young Veteran with PTSD may be experiencing, the second step is to get the Veteran the outside help he or she needs.
The Veterans Administration’s National Center for PTSD says trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD. The treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning.
The trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence are:
- Prolonged Exposure (PE). Teaching the Veteran how to gain control by facing their negative feelings. It involves talking about the trauma and doing some things the Veteran has avoided since the trauma.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Teaching the patient to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with a counselor about negative thoughts and doing short writing assignments.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Helping the Veteran process and make sense of their trauma. It involves calling the trauma to mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound.
The most commonly used medications for treating PTSD are antidepressants – SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These chemicals play a role in brain cell communication and affect how the patient feels.
The National Center for PTSD recommends four antidepressant medications for treating PTSD:
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor).
There are multiple other medications and psychological therapies available for Veterans with PTSD. Counseling may include family therapy so that everyone involved can work through the PTSD together. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health provider who is experienced with PTSD.
Veterans whose PTSD is a result of military service are entitled to VA disability benefits. Veterans who need to appeal a denied claim or whose VA benefits are inadequate because their disability rating is too low need to consult a Veterans disability lawyer experienced with PTSD claims.
Contact an Experienced PTSD Lawyer for Help Today
The PTSD lawyers at Berry Law Firm pursue all levels of Veterans’ disability appeals at every VA Regional Office in the United States. Two generations of military Veterans at the Berry Law Firm have helped thousands of disabled Veterans obtain the full benefits they have earned through their service to our country. Our attorneys have litigated claims that resulted in case law and changes to VA regulations.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.