While serving in the armed forces, soldiers experience recurring traumatic situations and events. Combat or not, a soldier’s life, as well as the lives of others, is threatened, causing a heightened level of awareness and stress. The physical and psychological traumas soldiers encounter during their time serving will impact their health, wellbeing and quality of life after they return home. Mental health issues, substance abuse and behavioral problems are common problems that soldiers face once they return back to “normal” life. The effects of trauma are not easy to forget, and many soldiers develop an anxiety disorder called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by the following major symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the trauma in nightmares, flashbacks and other vivid wakeful remembrances of the traumatic event or experience.
- Avoidance symptoms and numbing; psychological defense mechanisms develop to block out painful memories. Individuals may avoid people, places and events that remind them of the trauma or they may isolate themselves from others or detach themselves to remain emotionally numb.
- Hyper-arousal or being in a state or constant mental and physical excitation; seeming on-edge, anxious or irritable for great lengths of time.
PTSD can impact all areas of an individual’s life, from sleep disturbances to relationship problems. Returning home from deployment, combat and military service can be extremely difficult, as soldiers must find a job, rekindle relationships, get acclimated to a completely different lifestyle and environment and more. When PTSD develops, a soldier can experience a great deal physical and psychological duress which can cause maladaptive behavior, aggression and violence, substance abuse, self-destructive tendencies, suicidal thoughts and behaviors and more.
What Is Somatic Experiencing?
Somatic experiencing (SE) is a therapeutic approach to trauma recovery utilizing skills that enhance body awareness. A trained therapist will work to help an individual identify the difference between positive body sensations and sensations associated with stress, duress and trauma. Body awareness allows individuals to re-familiarize themselves with positive sensations and experiences. In doing so, the brain and body will work to restore these feelings and a natural balance or relaxed state, instead of hyper-vigilance or anxiety. By enhancing positive sensations, individuals can utilize their instinctual need to heal and re-balance their psychological being.
How Does Somatic Experiencing Benefit a Soldier with PTSD?
The goal of somatic experiencing is to get an individual to release the chemicals related to the trauma. When individuals face a trauma, the body goes through a fight or flight response, releasing adrenaline and chemicals needed to motivate a reaction or act to protect one’s self. But in traumatic situations, people are often unable to do anything, and these emotions, adrenaline, and fear are trapped in the body. It is believed that these feelings can remain with the individual for weeks, months, and even years; until the individual is able release these physical feelings that are causing emotional blockage with the traumatic memory. Releasing stored emotions is the major objective of somatic experiencing. Soldiers with PTSD can work through emotions and effects of trauma that they didn’t even know were there. Having a safe outlet to release painful emotions connected with trauma incurred during service can help soldiers move forward with their lives, minimize flashbacks, nightmares and a constant state of arousal, as well as restore a connection after emotional detachment.
Find Somatic Experiencing and Other Treatment Options for Soldiers with PTSD
For help finding treatment services that offer somatic experiencing or other treatment options for soldiers with PTSD, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak with a recovery professional who can assist you.