It has been almost half a century now since the last of the soldiers returned from the Vietnam War. That means that Vietnam Vets are now entering their retirement years. Sadly, instead of returning to a hero’s welcome, many Vietnam vets returned to angry protesters and a divided country. Consequently, many vets never talked about the war much less sought help for the psychological trauma they were experiencing. Now, decades later, many Vietnam vets continue to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD, a Port St. Lucie veterans benefits lawyer at Kulas & Crawford urges you to learn what benefits are available to you.
An Overview of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be defined as a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing it or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.
A History of PTSD
The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are not a new phenomenon. In reality, PTSD has likely existed for centuries; however, it was only recently officially recognized as a legitimate disorder. Historically, soldiers who were clearly suffering the effects of war were referred to as “Shell Shocked.” Sadly, the symptoms of Shell Shock / PTSD were often mistaken for cowardice. It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association added PTSD to the Third Edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and 1989 that a Congressional Mandate (PL 98-528) addressed the needs of Veterans and other trauma survivors with PTSD. Two more decades passed before the Veterans Administration finally reduced the medical evidence needed by veterans who were seeking health care and disability compensation for PTSD. Finally, veterans suffering from PTSD benefit from faster and more accurate decisions and quicker access to medical care.
Is It PTSD? Common Symptoms Explained
Only a physician can diagnose PTSD; however, there are some telltale symptoms that should prompt you to seek a professional evaluation. PTSD symptoms can vary over time and/or vary from person to person. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. Common examples of PTSD symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Reliving the trauma or having intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, events, or experiences that remind you of the trauma
- Hypervigilance, feeling unable to relax, always “keyed up” or on edge, irritability with no specific or rational cause, etc.
- Nightmares, sleep disturbances, inability to sleep, other sleep-related problems
Treating Veterans with PTSD
If you are a Vietnam veteran living with PTSD, you are not alone. According to the VA about 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year. More specifically, about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have suffered from PTSD at some point during their lifetime. The VA is finally taking a pro-active approach to treating veterans suffering from PTSD. In 2011, 476,515 veterans with primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD received treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics. Treatment for PTSD may include Talk Therapy which can include three different types of counseling:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy which helps the patient to “change upsetting thoughts and feelings you have had since your trauma” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Prolonged Exposure is when the patient is guided by a professional to approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations that the PTSD sufferer may have been avoiding since the traumatic event.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing when the patient is directed to think about the trauma or process it while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound.
Medication therapy is also an option for veterans with PTSD. Some of these medicines are used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). “These medicines affect the level of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain called serotonin and/or norepinephrine. The chemicals play a role in brain cell communication and affect how you feel. Only certain SSRIs and SNRIs are effective for PTSD symptoms,” according to the VA.
Where Can I Get Help for PTSD If I Am a Veteran?
If you are a veteran, or the loved one of one, who may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an excellent resource for information and help is the National Center for PTSD which is run by the Department of Veterans Administration. If you have problems getting approved for the benefits to which you are entitled, consult with an experience veterans benefits lawyer to discuss your options.
Contact a Port St. Lucie Veterans Benefits Lawyer
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder, or about veterans benefits in general, please contact an experienced Port St. Lucie veterans benefits lawyer at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to discuss your legal options.