PTSD dramatically affects victims

Published 10:06 am Friday, June 29, 2012

Editor’s note: This guest column was submitted by Lynne Parsons Psy.D., clinical psychologist, Faculty Hendersonville Family Practice and private practice in Mill Spring, in relation to PTSD during mental health month.

A man who aced nuclear submarine school struggles to concentrate 10 hours a day to complete online courses after nine months deployment in Iraq.
A young woman was driving when her car malfunctioned and people were killed, she was injured. Today, as an adult she can still feel the felt sense of dread that she felt after the collision, pinned in the car, helpless and desperate. I could go on.
I write, because the above maybe put more of a picture on this disorder we call Post Traumatic Stress, or PTSD. We will soon know even more about PTSD as our men return from war. This war was more stressful on the troops than we understood. A book, Achilles in Vietnam, reports on the results of men not training together and being in a war that is 24/7. Men who train together and are deployed as a unit feel safer because they know their buddies have their back and they are held dear by their comrades. Our approach to the Iraq war was to call up specialists who only met for the first time on enemy ground.
PTSD is due to our biological design. In overwhelming life – threatening situations we will fight, flee or freeze. It is a good design. When we cannot fight or run away, we automatically freeze. There is no decision point. In emergencies, those that recover the best were usually able to fight, or run and adrenalin is used up naturally. Freezing for humans can mean feeling detached—numb. Simple human pleasures disappear.
We know that people who have received human or animal comfort in those first traumatic moments are advantaged in recovery. A woman whose car went over another stopped vehicle and rolled was pulled out of her car, taken to another car and the man’s dog kept her company while he helped others. She remembers feeling the dog’s fur as a calming resource. Receiving support matters when in emotional overwhelm. The military has changed its policy and is now allowing veterans to adopt the bomb-sniffing dogs they work with and bring them home. They are emotional resources for the vets.

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