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What I Learned about PTSD from Invisible Scars

Profile of Man

Recently, I watched Invisible Scars, a documentary about veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Veterans, active duty service members, and family members of combat veterans or service members may get a free copy of the documentary here.

The documentary follows veterans who recount their stories of PTSD, including how they recognized it or were diagnosed with it, how they have been treated for it, and the effects it has had on their lives.  The veterans in the documentary are different ages and fought in different wars.  One of the veterans even lives in Alabama (at least at the time the documentary was made), where our firm is based and also where this documentary premiered.  The documentary also provides commentary by those involved with treating veterans suffering from PTSD along with policy makers and others who support veterans.  Below are some things I learned about PTSD from the documentary.

Former Names for PTSD

PTSD has existed for years, although in previous war times it was referred to as “Soldier’s Heart” or “Shell Shock.”

Recognizing Signs of PTSD

Signs of PTSD include:

  1. Re-experience (flashbacks)
  2. Avoidance Symptoms (avoiding movies or people, for example, because they trigger certain feelings)
  3. Negative Feelings
  4. Hyper-arousal (inability to relax and/or difficulty in sleeping and difficulty concentrating)

Barriers to Treatment for PTSD

Some things that prevent those suffering from PTSD from seeking help include:

  1. Worries about losing employment or finding future employment
  2. Worries of losing one’s security clearance
  3. Stigma
  4. Not understanding PTSD symptoms

In the documentary, one young veteran explained how service members may overlook or not understand PTSD symptoms, at least in the deployment setting.  This veteran mentioned that it can be difficult for deployed service members to recognize PTSD because everyone in combat has the same symptoms.  He described situations where service members are weary of being around each other all day, every day.  Many of them have trouble sleeping in uncomfortable conditions.  Some service members talk in their sleep, and they often sleep in the same rooms and hear one another talking.  People become agitated easily, and this is just one result of living together under difficult combat conditions.

In the situation I just described, it seems logical that service members may have trouble identifying members (or themselves) experiencing PTSD until they return home and are no longer all living together.

Programs to Help

Some physical activity programs have shown promise in helping veterans deal with PTSD.  These programs include:

  1. Yoga
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Martial Arts

One of the veterans interviewed for the documentary has an older brother who is also a veteran.  Listening to the younger brother describe how his older brother dealt with PTSD through alcohol abuse was very sad and really illustrated to me the difficulty in treating some veterans who suffer with PTSD.  Veterans in the same family suffering from the same condition experience very different results, even though the documentary does not delve into the reasons for these differences.

The documentary lasts a little over one hour, and it is well worth your time if you have a chance to watch it.

 

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