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The majority of Vietnam Veterans seeking help for PTSD arrive at the James A Haley Veterans Hospital PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Program saying, "My wife told me something's wrong and that's why I'm here. I'm afraid if I don't get help my wife is going to leave me and my kids will reject me." Carri-Ann Gibson, MD, director of the program hears the story over and over.
For over 40 years now, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a major problem for many Vietnam veterans. It's one of the main conditions treated by the Veterans Administration. It's said to be one of the major causes of divorce for Vietnam veterans. And, if the suicide statistics are true, PTSD is a major cause of suicide among Vietnam veterans. The good news, Dr. Gibson says, is that "Treatment for PTSD has changed a lot even in the past 5 to 10 years. It's incredible what can happen with treatment." what is a Vietnam veteran
Typically veterans at a VA PTSD center did their jobs well as soldiers and accomplished what they needed to by focusing on the missions. In order to do that, they had to put their emotions to the side. Then they came home, got a job, married and had a family. Now retired, the mission-focused emotions are back. If the emotions are not processed, they can magnify and control life. what is a Vietnam veteran
One of the most disabling parts of PTSD is avoidance. Dr. Gibson says people struggling with PTSD avoid thoughts, conversations and discussions related to their combat experience. So when they go for treatment, they minimize the symptoms because they worry they might lose control or become emotional before the person in the room with them." what is a Vietnam veteran
For other veterans, the realization that they have PTSD comes after a lifetime filled with anger outbursts. Anger, according to Gibson, is an acceptable emotion (while humiliation and fear are not). Anger is okay to express and people are fearful of you. That creates the control of a situation a person with PTSD is looking for. "People recoil and go away so the person doesn't feel threatened, but they also feel alone so it is a double-edged sword.
For other veterans, the PTSD centers on nightmares. Vietnam veterans are in their 60s and for many of them nightmares are reality. They might "see" something in the corner of their bedroom and threaten it. They might drop to the floor and hold an imaginary gun aimed at the corner for what seemed hours. what is a Vietnam veteran
Dr. Gibson says some Vietnam veterans are also facing their symptoms because of the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. They see the images on TV and hear the stories. Reminders of their own service-related experiences begin to surface. Some have faced failed relationships at every turn and want some stability in their lives emotionally. The veterans see younger vets getting treated for their PTSD and wonder if they, too, can get treatment.
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