U.S. Veteran Information (non-governmental)

How to Identify
the Signs of PTSD

How does an individual know that he or she is suffering from PTSD and not everyday stress? Here are some of the more common symptoms:

In most cases, PTSD sets in after a traumatic event has taken place, such as the violent death of someone the individual knew. It can also occur after a situation has passed in which the life of a friend or loved one is threatened in some manner. Often times, the individual who has it suffers denial where they mistakingly believe that they do not have a serious problem. This can cause the individual who truly suffers from PTSD to disconnect from their emotions. This, in turn, can cause them to disassociate, ore move away from, instead of closer, to their inner feelings and life in general. If allowed to continue over a long period of time, it can result in the denial that the stressor even took place.

In most cases, the affects of PTSD are not long lasting. In others, it can become a chronic problem that can last for years to come, sometimes for the rest of the individual's life. As times wears on, the veteran may experience any number of responses, such as anxiousness, nervousness, and depression--often for no apparent reason. This is normal for anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Many who have undergone such a trauma will often experience mood swings where they can feel happy one minute and devastated the next--from one end of the spectrum to the other

Re-enactments & Nightmares

One of the most tell tail signs of PTSD is that of flashbacks where the individual has vivid remembrances of the traumatic event that caused his or her problem. Many times there is no apparent reason for them; but, nevertheless, this can result in real physical changes within the PTSD sufferer, such as rapid heart beat, abnormal perspiration, mental confusion, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and the inability to concentrate and/or make decisions. Headaches, chest pain and nausea are also common symptoms that might require medical help of some kind.

Other signs of PTSD include the sudden recurrence of memories related to the trauma when a situation similar to the event takes place, such as unexpected sounds and sights. The anniversary of the event can also bring emotional reactions that invoke fears that relate back to the event. Many people who suffer from PTSD also find it difficult to carry on a normal relationship with loved ones, friends, and coworkers. For this reasons, divorce and joblessness are common among those suffering the long-term affects of PTSD.

According to ICD-10, Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992, PTSD can be diagnosed if the onset of the condition took place no more than six months after the stressor (traumatic event). Diagnosis of PTSD can be derived, however, if the symptoms are there, without the possibility of some other derivative of the disorder.

For U.S. Veterans, there is help. The VA has more than a hundred PTSD centers positioned throughout the country. In addition, there are numerous support groups poised to help the veteran through the process. For non-veterans, help is also available from private sector professionals who specialize in PTSD cases. In many cases, the veteran may choose to use both a private doctor and a VAMC (VA Medical Center). The bottom line for the individual who believes that he or she is suffering from PTSD is to take that first step and find help, whether you feel like it or not. Later you will be glad you did.

Editor's Note: Where should a veteran who suspects that he/she's having a problem with PTSD go for help with the VA? Where do they begin? There are many twists and turns to the claims process and we will endeavor to point you in the right direction. However, please know that coming up with all the answers is not an easy task. The research process continues and as new and helpful information becomes available, we will share it with the veteran community through the PTSD section of this web site.

Al Colombo
U.S. Veteran Information

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