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Ms. Vicki on PTSD: Facts and Resources

Ask Ms. Vicki

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) is an emotional and psychological response to trauma that is shocking and painful. The person perceives the event as life-threatening. PTSD is grouped with other anxiety disorders but is different in that it is associated with events that can even be witnessed and directly experienced by you. These traumatic events can be war, terrorist attacks, violence against you or someone else, natural disasters and others. These events can leave you feeling horrified, helpless, and afraid.

It is normal to have some anxiety about a frightening event. On the other hand, post-traumatic stress includes intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. You may try anything to avoid the memories, which can leave you sleep deprived and even lead you to resort to alcohol or substance abuse to help you cope and avoid re-experiencing the trauma.

: adults and children too. PTSD does not discriminate, anyone no matter what age, gender, ethnicity, financial status etc. PTSD can be mild or severe, but more importantly, there is treatment for PTSD.

Anyone can have PTSD

This is a recent letter I received from a Soldier who suspects he may have PTSD.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Something is wrong with me but I don't know what it is. I'm wondering if I will ever be normal. I've been deployed three times and I've been redeployed for over a year. I can't sleep without having nightmares; I cry for no reason at all, social activities are a thing of the past for me because I just don't have a desire to do anything. I'm jumpy and nervous all of the time and watching my back and traffic and crowded places makes me angry. My wife is about to leave me because she wants the "old me.". She says I've changed too much and wants me to get help. By the way Ms. Vicki, my libido is gone and this is affecting my marriage too. Why can't I make love to my wife? She could be standing in front of me stark naked and I wouldn't want to do anything. I don't want to be the washed up Soldier who isn't wanted in his company. I don't want people to think I am weak and don't have the willpower to kick this thing. I think I just need to give it some time and things will get better.

Post-traumatic stress is not a matter of willpower, and you don't get it because you are weak. More importantly, if left untreated it can be debilitating and will get worse.

If you are having symptoms that you cannot fully understand, visit with your primary care manager (PCM) and discuss the symptoms with him/her. This would be a great place to start because your PCM can rule out other medical conditions that could be the origin of the symptoms. For example, high blood pressure, thyroid irregularity, diabetes etc. These conditions could also cause changes to a person's mood, activity level, sleep, appetite, and even affect your overall personality.

Here is a list of other resources that can help. Visit their website or contact them by phone for more information.

The VA Health Benefits Service Center 877-222-VETS or go online to Specialized PTSD Treatment Programs (www.ncptsd.va.gov)
The National Center for PTSD (www.ncptsd.va.gov)
The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) 24/7 outreach at 866-966-1020 (www.dcoe.health.mil)
The Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org)

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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