Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Issues

Introduction

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually occurs after life threatening events in people’s lives. Such events might include combat in the military, assault, molestation, accidents and natural calamities. Different people have different ways of dealing with stress that they go through in their lives. Research statistics show that approximately 8.5% of all men that undergo major life threatening events develop post-traumatic stress disorder. From the same number of participants that undergo life threatening events, 20% experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Approximately 30% of the individuals who undergo major life threatening experiences go through a chronic form of post-traumatic stress disorder (Rangel, 2011, p. 1). Approximately 23.5 % of all individuals have had some form of post-traumatic stress disorder in their lives. Research findings show that more than half of all the Vietnam War veterans have had some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 8% of militants that were involved in the Gulf war also show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Friedman, Keane& Resick, 2010, p. 34).

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Conditions that contribute to and influence post-Traumatic stress disorder

Most soldiers have traumatic experiences from combat because of the serious life threatening events that they go through. These events include watching the destruction of property and lives of their colleagues and friends in the line of duty. It has been cited that most of the soldiers might not be emotionally prepared to deal with all the death and destruction that they witness in combat. No comprehensive preparatory events are performed to prepare the soldiers for what they might see and experience in combat. This has been criticized as one of the major causes of the high number of soldiers that undergo post-traumatic stress disorders during and after combat. Combat usually involves prolonged exposure to battle which results to loss of many lives between warring sides. Most soldiers do not have the emotional capability to deal with all that stress.

Adjustment and transitional issues faced by soldiers and families

Some soldiers might not be able to handle the post-traumatic stress that they experience after combat. This negatively affects the relationships that they have with their family members and friends back at home. Coping with the condition for soldiers might be very difficult especially if they might have experienced some other form of trauma such as physical or sexual abuse. Soldiers and their families are usually advised to join therapy groups where they can share their experiences with individuals that might be going through the same experiences as them (Foa, Keane, Friedman, Friedman, 2000, p. 19).

Talking about the rough experiences that the soldiers went through has been described as one of the best ways of coping with stress for soldiers and their families. Through sharing their experiences, the soldiers can share their burdens and not go through the sad and traumatic memories on their own. A strong social support is recommended for soldiers. If a strong social support is absent, soldiers might result to dependence on alcohol or drugs; using such habits as a means to numb their pain and memories from the trauma in combat (Jenkins 2003, p. 1)

Social Factors

Post-traumatic stress disorder has been cited as recurring in veterans that have to attend events related to the military such as reunions and funerals of their colleagues from the military. Programs that are aired or printed in the media might also trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. Lack of support from family and friends might increase the intensity of post-traumatic stress disorder for militants. Family members of war veterans might have a hard time coping with the emotional stress that their veteran family members experience (Kelly, Barksdale & Gitelson, 2011, p. 30).

Environmental factors

Medical ailments might trigger post traumatic disorder for militants. The ailments might be experienced by the militants or by those who are close to them such as family members or close friends. Natural calamities might also act as a trigger to post traumatic stress disorder that is experienced by soldiers. Natural calamities usually result in destruction of property and loss of lives; a situation that can be closely linked to the one that soldiers experience in combat. An environment that resembles that of combat is bound to bring back strong memories of the kind of trauma that the soldiers are trying so hard to forget. The soldiers might begin to feel unsafe and panic because they feel trapped by a situation that they cannot control (Livanou, 1999, p. 182).

Behavioral factors

Violent behavior similar to that which might be experienced in combat is bound to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers. Violent behavior that soldiers might experience may be from terror events, assault or from movies that they might watch. Unfortunately, the violent behavior cannot be controlled since it is from other individuals. Soldiers might however use tactics that they feel would help them cope such as breathing in deeply to try and calm their nerves (Kohn, Hasty & Henderson, 2002, p. 1).

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Biological factors

Hormonal imbalances in the body might trigger the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder in individuals. The hormonal imbalances might be caused by abnormal growths, medication or other serious conditions in the body such as cancer. Illnesses such as certain types of cancer have been known to cause the interference of hormone production in the body. Underproduction or over production of hormones has been linked to triggering of stress levels in the body, which might in turn lead to memories of the life threatening experiences for soldiers. The birthing process for female soldiers that might have been in combat might trigger the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder. Death of a loved and dear family member might also act as a trigger to this condition. The loss of such a loved one would stimulate pain and the feeling of being unable to control the situation. This is expected to be the same kind of feeling experienced by soldiers that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (Kelly, Barksdale & Gitelson, 2011, p. 30).

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

A multi-dimensional approach is utilized in diagnosis of post-traumatic stress in individuals. Findings from research suggest that results from primary research should be combined to come up with suitable means of diagnosing the condition. The research should be carried out using questionnaires, interviews and from secondary sources such as published journals and textbooks. Post-traumatic stress disorder is biologically linked to an increase in the production and activity of various hormones in the body. Hormones produced in the thyroid gland are an example of the hormones that have been found to be abnormal in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (Miechenbaum, 2000, p. 1). Medical practitioners have linked post-traumatic stress disorder to abnormal changes in the central and autonomic nervous systems in the body. The amygdala might be abnormally activated while the hippocampus might have a volume that is reduced compared to the normal size. Amygdala is involved in memory integration and processing. It is also linked to the reaction of the body in coordinating fear and how it is processed in the body. The hippocampus is also closely linked to the response of the body to fear (Dubosky, 2011, p. 1)

Cortisol levels are lower than normal levels for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Epinephrine and norepinephrine levels have also found to be higher than the level that is observed in normal individuals. In almost all post-traumatic stress disorder patients, there is increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system and abnormality of sleep patterns (Grieger et al, 2006, p. 40). Opiates of the trauma that has been experienced have also been found to be higher in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the distinct differences between post traumatic disorder and depression is that the symptoms of the two are completely different from each other.

There is an increase of post-traumatic stress disorder occurring in individuals that might have other psychiatric pre-existing conditions. In a study that was carried out, 88% of men were found to have a higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions, such as alcohol dependence. Out of the same number of participants in the research survey, 79% of women were found to have pre-existing conditions. In women who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders, other conditions that they suffered from included alcohol abuse, social phobias, general phobias and depression. In men, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, depression and misconduct were pre-existing conditions (Malker & Sigal, 1990, p. 26).

A greater number of US combat troops have been reported to be taking antidepressants to relax their nerves on the basis of the time that they spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. Critics of the war and its effects have cited that the government has had to prescribe many soldiers with anti-depressants and sleeping pills just so that they can be able to perform and cope with the effects of the war. The government has been criticized for not caring enough about the soldiers. It is estimated that the cost of removing the soldiers from the battle ground would be very high so the government opts for the seemingly cheaper option of prescribing the soldiers with anti-depressants and sleeping pills (Carpenter, 2009, p. 45).

Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

The condition is treated with a combination of drug therapy and talk therapy sessions by qualified psychotherapists. No definite treatment plan has been found to be 100% effective. Most therapists recommend a variety of diverse treatment plans for post-traumatic stress disorder patients. Exposure therapy and group therapy have been found to be some of the most effective treatment plans for patients with the condition. Exposure therapy involves talking to the patients and helping them relieve the traumatic experience. The relieving sessions usually occur under hypnosis or other controlled form of states as found suitable by the qualified therapist. Therapy involving drugs has also been found to be very effective. Prozac and Zoloft are some of the most commonly used post-traumatic stress disorder drugs found in the market (Bruce 1991, p. 184). The use of drugs for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder among militants is highly effective in some cases and less effective in other patients. These drugs work by inhibiting the uptake of serotonin in the body. Group therapy has also been recommended as one of the most effective means of treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Soldiers and their families are most likely to have the same kind of experiences. Having people who can relate to and share the accounts of the same experiences that they have had is very therapeutic (Turner, 1999, p. 22).

Conclusion

The paper has successfully looked at the conditions that contribute to post traumatic stress disorder, the triggers, symptoms and treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder is brought on by experiences that are life threatening to peoples’ lives. For soldiers, such life threatening experiences constitute combat. Combat involves prolonged exposure to violent war activities that have a lifelong impact on the soldiers. Dealing with such traumatic events might be difficult and coping with the memories even more difficult. Violent behavior in soldiers’ surroundings might trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. Terror attacks or public brawls might trigger buried memories which would induce stress for such individuals. Social factors might include poor or absence of support systems such as friends or families. Lack of understanding trauma experienced by soldiers might contribute to post traumatic stress disorder for soldiers. This might stem from close family members and friends.

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Family members are expected to be very understanding to soldiers and contributing to proper coping mechanisms. Group therapy offering support for soldiers that have been in combat is also expected to offer a remedy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Prozac and Zolofot are some of the commonly used prescription drugs for this condition and their effectiveness has been seen to differ in different patients. Support whether in form of family, military or therapy is very important in coping with post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers. Hormonal imbalances are some of the biological factors that can contribute to the trigger of post-traumatic stress disorder. The birth of a child especially for female soldiers or loss of a loved one might also trigger post-traumatic stress disorders for patients (Dubosky, 2011, p. 1).

Reference List

Bruce, B. (1991). Emotional trauma haunts Korean POWs. Science news. 139(5), 2 – 3.

Carpenter, L. (2009). Once were warriors. The Observer. Web.

Dubosky, S. (2011). Can PTSD Be Prevented? New England journal of medicine. Web.

Foa, E. Keane, B., Friedman, M. Friedman, M. (2000). Guidelines for Treatment of PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress: National Center for PTSD. 13(4), 45 – 50

Grieger, T., Cozza, S., Ursano, R., Hoge, C., Martinez, P., Engel, C. & Wain, H. (2006). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Battle in battle- Injured Soldiers. The American journal of psychiatry. Web.

Jenkins, V. (2003). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Related to Prisoners of War. Allpsych journal. Web.

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Livanou, M. (2001). Psychological Treatments for PTSD: AN overview. International Review of Psychiatry. 13 (2). 181-188.

Malker, S. & Sigal, M. (1990). Combat Related, Chronic PTSD: Implications for Group Therapy Intervention. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 44 (3).20-26.

Miechenbaum, D. (2000). Resilience building as a means to prevent PTSD and related adjustments problems in military personnel. Handbook for treating PTSD in military personnel. Web.

Rangel, M. (2011). Helping Soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. America’s north shore journal. Web.

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