W.D. "Dub" Rogers, PhD.
My first awareness of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) began a number of years ago when I had counseled several men that presented with issues of anger and depression. As we spent time together, other issues surfaced. They had difficulty getting close to others and preferred to work alone. This also carried over into their family relationships. It was difficult for them to express tender or loving feelings. Large gatherings of people, even extended family members, generated anxiety. They would feel “closed in” and need to keep on the outside edge of the group. Sometimes they could not stay at all, and they would abruptly leave or find a way to avoid the situation altogether.
These men also had something else in common: they were all at least 50 years old and were Vietnam combat veterans. Most were reluctant to talk about their experiences and actively sought to keep from thinking about it. Many had been divorced or their marriage was falling apart, and many had abused drugs or alcohol, especially when they first returned from Vietnam. Their work history was often erratic with frequent job changes. They had few friends, sometimes one close friend who most often was also a veteran. They all had difficulty going to sleep and maintaining sleep. They often woke up in a cold sweat from dreams or nightmares. Some could remember the nightmares, because they had the same one over and over. Others could not remember, but they woke up fearful. Often, these men had to get up and check the house or their property. Their mates would tell them they were thrashing about or screaming in their sleep. The mates had learned not to touch them when waking them for fear of being hit or kicked as they came out of sleep.
Rage was not uncommon. It could come out over the smallest things, like the inability to find something, the way someone looked at them, or the way others were driving. As I talked with them, they usually felt depressed and had felt that way for a long time. Many had suicidal thoughts. When asked about the most difficult situation they faced, they would get quiet and as they began to tell their story, most would have to stop because their emotion would come to the point of tears. Many cried. They felt embarrassed, but had difficulty controlling it. Many times I have heard, “I’ve never told this to anyone, not even my wife or kids.”
PTSD is a stress disorder that follows trauma. The word “post” indicates the symptoms continue long after the stressors have past. For some, it is chronic. For others, it may be delayed until something serves as a catalyst. PTSD is not limited to veterans, however. Rape, witnessing death or serious injury to another person, or experiencing the threat of death to one’s own life are among the many other traumatic experiences that could result in PTSD. The emotions one experiences are fear and horror. Not all veterans experiences PTSD, of course, just as not all people who experience other types of trauma will experience PTSD.
There are several different therapeutic approaches for PTSD. Most Veteran Hospitals have group treatment as well as medication for the veteran. Some veterans do better with individual therapy. There are also community centers and private practices that have group and individual therapy available. Disabled American Veteran (DAV), Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), and the American Legion are sources of information for treatment. Some churches provide support groups and can be a source of treatment. Recently, my practice has evolved and I now evaluate and treat a number of veterans with PTSD each week.
Since most individuals with PTSD isolate from others, it often falls to the family or friends to encourage them to seek treatment, and many times that must help them start the process. Treatment can help them experience relationship, a closer walk with God, and an overall better quality of life.