PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health disorder that can occur after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Trauma can be both physical and psychological, and it usually causes individuals to live in persistent fear following the event. Traumatic events cause a person to feel like they have zero control over their surroundings, and this horrifying experience can cause serious effects.
Not everyone who undergoes a trauma will develop PTSD. Some individuals will have very minor reactions — having symptoms short-lived and less debilitating. However, some individuals will continue to relive the traumatic event, and their stress-related reactions will worsen over time.1
Soldiers are exposed to high-levels of both physical and psychological trauma. Combat exposure, terrorist attacks, deployments, mobilization, accidents, injury and the constant state of feeling on-guard or threatened by an attacker can create an environment filled with stress and trauma.
According to research from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 percent veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return with PTSD. Suicide is also a major issue for returning veterans. Suicide rates among soldiers have increased by 80% and veterans now account for 20% of the total suicide population in the US. Twenty veterans take their own life each day — a figure 22 percent higher than that of civilians.2
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD in Veterans?
PTSD in veterans is characterized by four major symptoms that include the following:
- Re-experiencing or reliving the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks
- Avoiding things, places and people that trigger memories of the traumatic event
- Losing interest in things that used to be enjoyed, detachment from others and developing negative feelings towards oneself; self-isolation and emotional numbness
- Hyper-arousal symptoms are the most outwardly visible signs of PTSD, where the individual appears to be jittery or constantly on-edge
The symptoms of PTSD in veterans can be quite debilitating in all areas of their life.
- Intense feelings of guilt, shame and hopelessness
- Substance abuse or addictive behavior
- Relationship troubles
- Employment problems
- Poor physical health
- Chronic pain3
The cruel symptoms of PTSD are a significant influence on the high-rates of suicide among active-duty people in the service and veterans. There are, however, numerous treatment options for PTSD sufferers as well as preventative treatments to help individuals from ever reaching this point.
What is EMDR and Can it Help Veterans with PTSD?
There are several treatment options for veterans with PTSD, and depending on the individual’s condition, co-occurring diagnoses and other factors, the right treatment options will vary. Sometimes mainstream treatment — like talk therapy — may be enough, but in many instances a combination of treatments will be most effective. This also helps prevent drug dependence and addiction.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapy that involves focusing on sound or hand movements while the affected individual discusses the trauma. A therapist will guide rapid rhythmic eye movements by using hand or finger motions, hand or toe tapping or musical tones while transitioning from disturbing emotional experiences to positive ones.
The aim is to gradually weaken the disturbance and severity of traumatic memories and weaken the effect of negative emotions. EMDR has proven to be highly-effective at treating PTSD in soldiers as well as eating disorders, panic attacks, addictions and anxiety.4
Find EMDR and Other Treatment Options for Veterans With PTSD
For help finding EMDR and other treatment options for yourself or a loved one with PTSD, please call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline now at 901-350-4575. Our admissions coordinators can assist you with all your questions, concerns and needs as well as help find and connect you with the treatment programs and services that will work best for you.
1 "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." National Institute on Mental Health, February 2016.
2 Fisher, Nicole, "Suicide Rates Show Veterans’ Biggest War Can Happen In Their Minds." The Federalist, May 28, 2018.
3 "What Is PTSD?" US Department of Veterans Affairs, September 15, 2017.
4 Gotter, Ana "EMDR Therapy: What You Need to Know." Heatlhline.com, December 15, 2017.