Treating PTSD In Veterans and First Responders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very serious mental health concern that affects millions of Veterans and First Responders every year. The effects of PTSD can have a huge impact on a Veteran’s or First Responder’s quality of life, affecting not just their overall happiness, but also making it more difficult for them to maintain personal relationships and hold down a regular job. Fortunately, effective treatment options are available to help Veterans and First Responders who are living with PTSD that help manage symptoms, so Veterans and First Responders can live rewarding post-service lives.

The connection between Veterans and First Responders and mental health problems has been well-established for decades. Without proper treatment for their symptoms, Veterans and First Responders are more likely to struggle in civilian life, and more likely to turn to substance abuse in order to manage the symptoms of mental illness. Sunrise Rehabilitation and Recovery specializes in PTSD treatment for Veterans and First Responders, giving Veterans and First Responders the what that they need in order to be successful in every part of their lives.

How Common is PTSD With Veterans

It has been estimated by the VA that 11 to 30 percent of Veterans suffer from PTSD, with varying generational prevalence rates. This makes Veterans at least twice as likely to end up with a PTSD diagnosis as the civilian population. As a member of the armed services, individuals are likely to experience unique circumstances that the civilian population won’t. These experiences account for the increased prevalence of PTSD in Veterans. Things like deployments, combat, military sexual trauma, and the increased stress and pressure of certain specialties within each branch all combine to increase the chances of developing PTSD symptoms.

The Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

For many Veterans and First Responders, the signs of their PTSD go unnoticed. They simply think that they are having a hard time adjusting back to non-military life, or they may ignore their symptoms due to concerns about the stigma sometimes associated with seeking mental health care. PTSD is a complex condition because it can cause a range of symptoms that can change from situation to situation, or even day-to-day. However, specialists have identified specific symptoms that are specific to PTSD:

Intrusive or Unwanted Thoughts

Many Veterans and First Responders will experience intrusive thoughts and memories, called flashbacks, of specific traumatizing events that are experienced or witnessed. For the Veteran or First Responder experiencing a flashback, it will feel like they are reliving the event and can cause re-traumatization. 

Flashbacks may come in the form of nightmares or night terrors or unwanted thoughts that simply will not go away. All of these situations can make it difficult for a Veteran or First Responders to sleep at night, or to concentrate on normal daily tasks at home or at work. They may also avoid situations, people, or places that are triggering, leading to isolation.

Avoidance of Trauma Reminders

Another hallmark of PTSD are behaviors that were established in order to avoid any reminders of the trauma. This can include avoiding certain places, situations, activities, or even certain people. Avoidance can also take the form of pretending that the trauma never happened, or refusing to talk about it.

Major Shifts in Your Moods or Thoughts

Veterans and First Responders with PTSD often have major shifts in their moods, or mood swings, that come on suddenly and without warning. They may also have intense feelings of shame or guilt about events in their military career, which may lead to feelings of unworthiness. These negative emotions often lead to severe depression or anxiety for Veterans.

Inappropriate Outbursts

It is not uncommon for Veterans and First Responders and PTSD to have difficulty controlling their behavior or reactions to things. These feelings often result in intense, uncontrollable angry outbursts. They may also develop self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse or binge drinking, in order to cope with outbursts.

Veterans and First Responders and PTSD Risk Factors

The connection between Veterans and PTSD can be linked to the risk factors that they encounter during their time in the service. Research has shown that certain events that service members are exposed to can greatly influence both their likelihood of developing PTSD, as well as the severity of their symptoms. This includes:

  • Exposure to violence or combat, especially for those with multiple exposures
  • Having discharged a weapon during combat
  • Witnessing deaths, both during combat and otherwise
  • Having seen or experience life-threatening injuries
  • How much support was received after going through these experiences

The Health Risks of PTSD

The risks connected to Veterans and First Responders and PTSD aren’t just mental and emotional ones; this condition can also take a toll on a Veteran’s and First Responder’s physical health as well. These physical effects are often just as difficult to deal with as the mental effects and also require treatment in order for a Veteran to be able to move past their PTSD symptoms. The most common health risks of PTSD include:

Cardiovascular Issues

PTSD has been shown to lead to chronic high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Many Veterans with PTSD also suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome, which are thought to stem from changes in gut bacteria as a result of stress.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain and PTSD frequently occur in tandem, with 35 percent of Veterans and First Responders having been diagnosed with both conditions.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Even a mild concussion can cause lingering issues in the form of TBI side effects. TBI side effects can include: changes in mood and personality, chronic headaches, problems with memory and concentration

Substance Abuse

Veterans and First Responders with PTSD are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder, which often leads to a serious addiction. This can result from prescription medications given to treat service-related pain, or from Veterans and First Responders using substances to try and self-medicate their symptoms rather than seeking professional help.

Begin PTSD Treatment for Veterans and First Responders

When it comes to treating PTSD, Veterans have a range of safe and effective options available to them. The most important thing is finding a facility that specializes in the treatment of Veterans and First Responders so that you are getting the most appropriate and trauma-informed care. At Sunrise Rehabilitation and Recovery, we offer a number of different treatment options for Veterans and First Responders with PTSD, including:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • EMDR
  • Addiction Therapy

No matter how long you have been out of the service or how severe your symptoms are, you can benefit from PTSD treatment. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you to minimize your symptoms, process your trauma, and get help for underlying issues like chronic pain or substance abuse. Sunrise Rehab and Recovery team of Veteran and First Responder care specialists are here to address all of your concerns. Our goal is to help you to find whole-body healing from your PTSD symptoms. Call our dedicated team today at (877) 302-4333 if you need to talk or want more information on how we can help.

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