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Post Traumatic Stress 101

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a powerful influence on many people’s lives. It is a normal response to a completely abnormal situation. I heard a general officer say that “PTSD is a warrior’s wound to the heart.”

Common symptoms can be grouped into three categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidant symptoms, and arousal symptoms. Flashbacks, isolating and anger are three common examples.

Often, especially with military veterans, there is a great reluctance to ask for help. Soldiers have been trained to accomplish the mission at any cost. In their eyes, asking for help is often viewed as a sign of failure or weakness. As an Army Ranger, I know that if there were more bad guys coming at me than I had bullets to shoot, I would call my buddies to the left and right to help. Soldiers are trained to call their boss at that point to send in the reserve as well as contact mortars, artillery, helicopter gunships and fast movers.

Wise warriors can assess when an enemy is too big to handle alone. Wise warriors understand the necessity of bringing every asset to bear in the fight against that enemy. At the end of the day, soldiers who do that have medals pinned on their chests for winning battles and are called heroes by those of us back home. PTSD is an enemy that is too big to handle alone. When veterans can see PTSD in that light, they begin to understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and wisdom.

We have learned in combat the importance of getting wounded soldiers treated quickly. Perhaps you know someone who has tried to ignore this wound. Warriors need safe places to rest and heal, and they need to let somebody else stand guard while they recover. At Spanish River Counseling Center, we take that very seriously.

Robert Otto, Ph.D.

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