The purpose of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Program is to pay tribute and express appreciation to Veterans, increase community awareness of the role of the VA medical center and encourage citizens to visit hospitalized Veterans, and to become involved as volunteers.
The week of February 14 each year is your opportunity to say thank you to a special group of men and women, more than 98,000 Veterans of the U.S. armed services who are cared for every day in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, outpatient clinics, domiciliaries, and nursing homes.
During the National Salute, VA invites individuals, Veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers. The activities and events include special ward visits and valentine distributions; photo opportunities; school essay contests; special recreation activities and Veteran recognition programs.
Volunteers are a priceless asset to the Nation’s Veterans and to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The week also provides an opportunity for the community to become acquainted with the volunteer opportunities within the medical center. To locate your nearest Virginia VA facility to see how you can volunteer click here.
With Memorial Day around the corner, one Chicago veterans group is preparing for their biggest fundraiser of the year.
The daily average of veterans who die by suicide has dropped, but the pandemic put a huge dent in services.
The big event later this month aims to show veterans they are not alone.
The Chicago Veterans Ruck March is 17 miles and raises money for veterans in need — 17 miles representing how many veterans die each day from suicide.
“The Ruck March is basically bringing awareness and it’s also giving soldiers a therapeutic value that they can wear their lost soldiers picture, they can do it in their honor,” said Carlos Vega, Veteran Outreach and Events Coordinator. “And also bring awareness that PTSD is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”
For eight years, the organization Chicago Veterans has hosted 300 community events in 45 Chicagoland communities.
“This is all about keeping us together as a team. One team, one fight. We’re all fighting one mission. We’re all battling ourselves,” said Army veteran Armando Vega, Organizer of Veterans in Recovery.
Vega has been sober for more than eight years. Through Chicago Veterans, he launched the Veterans in Recovery program. Money from the fundraiser helps keep the program going.
“It’s all about paying it forward, helping others and ain’t nothing better than helping another brother or sister veteran,” Vega said.
In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.
More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.
I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.
”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.
This work advances Abbott and LISC’s shared commitment to create a more diverse healthcare industry and generate jobs and stronger economies in underinvested communities.
This funding opportunity is open to qualified diverse small businesses and offers support through:
Growth capital: interest-free capital to help businesses overcome hurdles to expansion, such as investing in management systems to comply with regulatory and environmental requirements
Business loans: flexible, affordable loans that would not typically be available through conventional lenders
Tailored coaching and technical assistance: targeted, customized support, including help with fulfilling investment and loan requirements and identifying and addressing specific business challenges
Eligible diverse small businesses for program participation and funding must be:
Diverse-owned, defined as those that are majority owned by people of color (including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans), women, veterans, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups;
In business for more than two years and are based in the U.S. with an annual revenue of $250,000 or more; and
Focused on manufacturing nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices or other health technologies, or offering business-to-business products and services that the healthcare industry can use.
Sole proprietors are not eligible for the program.
For more information about this initiative, please visit the LISC site. And to learn more about Abbott’s work to support a more diverse supply chain, visit Abbott’s site.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for veterans over 60. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
The disease damages your eye’s optic nerve. It usually happens when fluid pressure builds up in the front part of your eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure on the optic nerve. It can reduce blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage and visual field loss.
Some forms of glaucoma can damage the optic nerve from reduced blood flow, even when the eye pressure is in the normal range during the eye exam. This can happen when the eye pressure becomes high at other times of the day and the patient does not feel the pressure elevation.
It can also happen when blood flow to the optic nerve becomes reduced below a critical level. That can happen during periods of very low blood pressure, even during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea can adversely affect glaucoma in some patients who take their hypertension medications right before bedtime, it can cause the blood pressure to drop too low during hours of sleep, and may also reduce the delivery of oxygen to the optic nerve.
VA research provides valuable tools for vision treatment
VA is at the forefront of vision research and glaucoma is one of its top priorities. A current study by Dr. Markus Kuehn is a Bioassay to Predict the Development and Progression of Glaucoma. The VA Rehabilitation, Research, and Development Division sponsors the study.
The project uses the recent discovery that glaucoma affects the development of a cellular autoimmune response that can further reduce vision. The investigators are testing if the strength of the reaction from a blood sample is predictive of future loss of vision and quality of life of the patient.
Using artificial intelligence to diagnose glaucoma severity
Another Iowa City VA study by Drs. Randy Kardon, Mona Garvin, Ray Wang, Young Kwon Johannes Ledolter and Michael Wall is using a new type of artificial intelligence of image analysis. This intelligence is called a deep learning variational encoder. It diagnoses the severity of glaucoma, detects the earliest signs of worsening vision and its response to treatment.
They are also relating the eye imaging to Veteran quality of life.
Early identification of patients at high risk to develop vision loss allows more aggressive treatment before the damage occurs. The development of a predictive assay and new types of eye imaging analysis will provide eye care providers with valuable new tools to preserve the quality of life for Veterans.
Veterans enrolled in VA health care can schedule appointments directly with Ophthalmology or Optometry without a referral from primary care. Schedule an eye exam at your VA health care facility today.
By Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology & Senior Director of Audiology, Signia
When people think of hearing loss, many think of being unable to hear. Period. That’s understandable. A literal loss of hearing — the onset of silence — can have dramatic ramifications for a person’s life.
But other forms of hearing loss, characterized by difficulty hearing, can have equal impact. And we’re learning, especially in the case of military veterans, that it can have a related effect on their mental health.
Two of the most prominent conditions affecting veterans are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While prevalent in the general public, each is a uniquely common health problem for veterans based on the important jobs they’re asked to perform. Also common is tinnitus, that ringing in the ears that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans but disproportionally affects veterans. The combination of the three presents a possible long-term health concern that requires coordination among disparate specialties to handle effectively.
According to a recent study of injured military personnel, hearing loss and PTSD may be linked. The study’s authors found that “the odds of PTSD are approximately three times higher in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss [hearing loss in both ears] when compared to personnel without hearing loss.” The reason, at least in part, is that hearing loss — even partial — can affect a veteran’s ability to listen and communicate, which decreases their quality of life and exacerbates mental health conditions, such as PTSD.
The Case for Coordination
As an audiologist, I’ve seen the mental health effects of hearing loss firsthand. Again, a person doesn’t have to experience total hearing loss to suffer. NIHL, in particular, affects communication because it impacts sound frequencies that are common in speech. NIHL makes hearing voices more challenging, especially in spaces where ambient sound competes to be heard. As a result, those affected strain to hear, which often leads to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, or they may withdraw from social situations, adversely affecting their mental health.
In the case of tinnitus, the study’s authors found that because it often co-occurs with NIHL, it may also be associated with higher rates of PTSD. In some cases, tinnitus may impact traumatic flashbacks. “Sounds triggering exacerbation of tinnitus similarly affected PTSD symptom severity,” they wrote.
Tinnitus is not hearing loss, but research has indicated it can be a sign of hearing loss to come. Therefore, like hearing loss, tinnitus requires early identification and treatment.
In fact, veterans and their healthcare providers need to be on the lookout early for all interrelated signs of NIHL, tinnitus and PTSD. Delay could have a serious impact on quality of life. There also should be fresh coordination between audiologists and mental health professionals. In short: veterans with bilateral hearing loss need to be monitored for PTSD.
Better Hearing in Noise
On the audiology side, technology now exists that can dramatically improve a veterans’ ability to hear and communicate in various settings, addressing one of the subtler effects of NIHL on mental health. Signia recently created a platform called Augmented Xperience that features hearing aids with two different microprocessors built in to handle speech and background noise separately. This kind of split processing in hearing aids makes it so NIHL sufferers can listen and communicate more effectively in all environments — quiet, noisy or normal.
Most of Signia’s hearing products also include innovative notch therapy technology for helping suppress tinnitus. Notch therapy identifies the wearer’s unique tinnitus frequency and creates a frequency notch in their hearing aids that ultimately offsets and silences the tinnitus.
Unfortunately, most primary healthcare professionals don’t automatically screen for hearing loss or tinnitus, and patients usually don’t recognize the problems until they’ve been examined. Fortunately for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the heightened risk of NIHL and tinnitus from military service and covers diagnostic audiology from the moment a veteran exits the service. Healthcare professionals and veterans themselves should expand from there and begin exploring the possible connections between a vet’s hearing loss and PTSD.
We know hearing loss and PTSD are significant public health problems among military veterans. Although further research still needs to be done, there are indications that identifying and treating the former through hearing technology that enhances human performance can begin to address the latter. In all likelihood, a coordinated approach to hearing and mental health can boost veterans’ quality of life.
Brian Taylor is a Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed articles and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. Brian has nearly 30 years of experience as both a clinician, business manager and university instructor. His most recent textbook, Relationship-Centered Consultation Skills for Audiologists, was published in July 2021.
If you’re struggling with substance use problems, you’re not alone. Many veterans have problems with the use of alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and prescription medicines.
We’re here to help.
Find out how to get support for substance use problems through VA.
What services does VA provide for veterans with substance use problems?
We provide many options for veterans seeking treatment for substance use problems ranging from unhealthy alcohol use to life-threatening addiction.
The services we offer you depend on your specific needs.
We offer proven medication options, like:
Medically managed detoxification to stop substance use safely, and services to get stable
Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce cravings (like methadone and buprenorphine for opiate addiction)
Nicotine replacement or other medicines for stopping tobacco use
We offer counseling and other therapy options, like:
Short-term outpatient counseling
Intensive outpatient treatment
Marriage and family counseling
Residential (live-in) care
Continuing care and relapse prevention (making sure you don’t slip back into the same substance use problems)
Special programs for veterans with specific concerns (like women veterans, returning combat veterans, and homeless veterans)
We also offer treatment and support for health conditions that can be related to substance use problems, like:
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Learn more about treatment programs for substance use problems
How do I access VA services for substance use problems?
The VA health care program covers services to treat substance use problems. To access these services, first apply for VA health care. Once you’ve signed up and have a VA primary care provider, talk to them about your substance use. Your provider can help you get screened for substance use problems and related issues (like PTSD or depression)—and can offer treatment and support as needed.
If you don’t have a VA primary care provider or have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic:
Call our general information hotline at 800-827-1000, or contact your local VA medical center. If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND), call your local VA medical center, and ask to speak to the OEF/OIF/OND coordinator.
What if I don’t have VA health care benefits?
You may still be able to get care:
If you’ve served in a combat zone, get free private counseling, alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of our 300 community Vet Centers.
If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless:
Visit our website to learn about VA programs for veterans who are homeless or contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area. The call is free and confidential (private).
Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Even if you don’t qualify for VA health care, our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.
Where can I find more information and support?
Go to our Make the Connection website at maketheconnection.net to hear stories from Veterans about their own experiences with overcoming drug and alcohol problems, and to get access to more resources and support. Visit our self-help resources guide to get links to books, web resources, and mobile applications that have been reviewed and recommended by VA experts.
Visit the resources section of our VA website to find more trusted resources outside VA that can offer information and support.
Download our Stay Quit Coach mobile app—designed to help veterans with PTSD quit smoking. We based this app on steps proven to work to help people quit smoking. It includes tools to control cravings and manage smoking triggers, messages to keep you going, medication reminders, and more.
By Annie Nelson, Founder, American Soldier Network
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to befriend some amazing men and women in military communities. They often do not just serve our nation while on active duty, but continue to do so long after they hang up their uniforms. Many of them strive to support their fellow veterans with their free time, some through their employers, and still others as entrepreneurs who create new businesses that serve our nation.
I was fortunate to recently interview two of those veterans who are successful entrepreneurs – Scott Brauer a retired Navy SEAL, and Mark Holtzapple, PhD, a professor at Texas A&M. They have partnered up on a new business called NozeSealTM that addresses sleep apnea, a growing critical health concern for active-duty members, veterans, their families and friends.
I sat down with Scott and Mark to ask them a few questions about their latest endeavor below:
Annie Nelson: Scott, why is sleep apnea such a hot topic?
Brauer: Annie, there are over 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, and likely another 10 million undiagnosed. The situation has been getting worse, especially within the military. A recent study shows that since 2005, there is a 30-fold increase in active-duty military members diagnosed with sleep apnea. In general, sleep disorders originate from a wide range of common issues found in the veteran community, such as sleep deprivation, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, pain, tinnitus, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), toxic pollution, emotional trauma, substance abuse and even substance withdrawal.
Nelson: What are the health impacts of sleep apnea?
Brauer: Poor sleep leads to many negative health effects, such as obesity, depression, irritability, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower sex drive, suppressed immune function, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. New studies are emphasizing the negative effects of sleep apnea on the health of the heart and the brain. A recent study showed that patients with severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had a significant increase in the number of both fatal and non-fatal cardiac events. The risk factor was nearly 3 times higher than normal! A key intervention for patients with severe OSA is treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for greater than 4 hours per night, which significantly reduces incidences of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events.
Nelson: What are the challenges with PAP therapy?
Brauer: Frankly, it can be a nightmare for many. The most frequently reported reason for discontinuing PAP therapy are side effects – leaks, discomfort and pain, facial marks and rashes, hair damage, anxiety and claustrophobia – which are experienced by approximately two-thirds of PAP users. By far, the most common complaint is leaks. Patients attempt to correct leaks by over-tightening the straps holding the mask in place, leading to the other side effects previously mentioned. Additionally, the PAP device compensates for leaks with higher air flow rates, which reduces nasal humidity contributing to nasal irritation, dryness and congestion. Leaking masks can cause eye irritation, infections and even swallowing air from increased PAP air pressures. All of these difficulties lead nearly half of those prescribed to use a PAP device to not comply with their doctor’s therapy, often quitting entirely.
Nelson: How can we improve PAP compliance?
Brauer: Results improve significantly by fitting masks properly and modifying a patient’s usual sleep position to reduce leaks. Minimalist masks – like a nasal mask or nasal pillow – can reduce air leakage and diminish claustrophobia. To improve comfort, seals and quietness, manufacturers continue to develop innovations for PAP masks and comfort accessories that minimize contact. Some of these innovative solutions include new nasal pillows, cushions, liners, wraps and accessories that eliminate headgear.
Nelson: Mark, what led you to invent NozeSeal?
Holtzapple: On my honeymoon, my wife informed me that I gasp for air in my sleep. Like most spouses, being woken nightly by snoring and gasping does not contribute to a happy marriage. After some prompting from my wife, I took a sleep study. Finally, after some struggles getting a proper diagnosis for sleep apnea, I received a PAP of my own. I quickly learned just how uncomfortable they are. On my second night, frustrated by excessive leaks, I threw my mask against the wall and shattered it!
Fortunately, on the third night, my respiratory therapist gave me a nasal pillow to try. It leaked, but in a manageable way. I invented a way to hold the nasal pillow in place during the night using an adhesive that stuck it to my nose, keeping it in place all night! After many refinements and filing some global patents for our highly engineered, yet simple and elegant solution, the NozeSealTM adhesive strip was born! Since last fall, Scott and I have assembled a terrific team to scale up our business for the many patients who suffer from sleep apnea.
Nelson: What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
Holtzapple: Nearly every week, our NozeSeal team gets a new 5-star review like this one:
“I have suffered with uncomfortable CPAP masks for years and have had my sleep destroyed. NozeSeal is the best product on the market. No strap marks or bruises on my nose, no painful magnet attachments, no hair loss from head gear friction and no constant adjustments to eliminate mask air leakage. I can finally sleep in comfort and turn over as often as I need to with ease. I am so happy!!!!”
These heart-felt messages truly inspire us to do our best every day to make a difference in patients struggling with sleep apnea!
Nelson: What can folks expect from NozeSealTM?
Holtzapple: The NozeSealTM adhesive strip is easy-to-use, inexpensive and compatible with any commercially available nasal pillow. We are blessed to deliver on our motto: “No Leaks, No Straps, Just a Great Night’s Sleep.” Please try one of our trial packs!
Just a few months ago, I learned of a young USMC veteran, married with a wife and young children. One day he was at the Houston Astro’s baseball game and the very next morning, he never woke up. He had passed away from sleep apnea. This is a silent killer, one to be taken seriously. Men and women alike should not brush it off. I’m thankful we have people like Mark and Scott who are striving to make this condition easier to live and sleep with. To learn more, visit NozeSeal.com.
Learning to recognize the signs of combat stress in yourself, another service member or a family member who has returned from a war zone can help you call on the right resources to begin the healing process.
Combat stress and stress injuries
Combat stress is the natural response of the body and brain to the stressors of combat, traumatic experiences and the wear and tear of extended and demanding operations. Although there are many causes and signs of combat stress, certain key symptoms are common in most cases:
Uncharacteristic irritability or angry outbursts
Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
Signs of depression such as apathy, changes in appetite, loss of interest in hobbies or activities or poor hygiene
Physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea or constipation
Other changes in behavior, personality or thinking
Combat stress sometimes leads to stress injuries, which can cause physical changes to the brain that alter the way it processes information and handles stress.
You should be aware of the following when dealing with a stress injury:
Stress injuries can change the way a person functions mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
The likelihood of having a combat stress injury rises as combat exposure increases.
The earlier you identify the signs of a stress injury, the faster a full recovery can occur.
If left untreated, a stress injury may develop into more chronic and hard-to-treat problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent or protect yourself from a stress injury, but there are things you can do to help yourself and others recover.
Different people handle stress — and combat stress — differently, and it’s not clear why one person may have a more severe reaction than another.
Here’s what you need to know about stress reactions:
Stress reactions can last from a few days to a few weeks to as long as a year.
Delayed stress reactions can surface long after a traumatic incident or extended exposure to difficult conditions has occurred.
An inability to adapt to everyday life after returning from deployment can be a reaction to combat stress.
How to get help
If you or someone you know is suffering from a combat stress injury, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to one of the following resources if you have symptoms of combat stress or stress injury, or if you are experiencing severe stress reactions:
Combat Stress Control Teams provide on-site support during deployment.
Your unit chaplain may offer counseling and guidance on many issues that affect deployed or returning service members and their families.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has readjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty, at community-based Vet Centers.
TRICARE provides medical counseling services either at a military treatment facility or through a network provider in your area. Contact your primary care manager or your regional TRICARE office for a referral.
The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence provides free resources on traumatic brain injury to help service members, veterans, family members and health care providers. Resources include educational materials, fact sheets, clinical recommendations and much more.
Veterans Crisis Line offers confidential support 24/7/365 and is staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs — some of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting to 838255.
Non-military support channels such as community-based or religious programs can offer guidance and help in your recovery.
If you are suffering from combat stress, you are not alone. Reach out to get the help and treatment you need to be able to live your life fully.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.
“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration “whichever comes first,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. He added that if infection rates rise and potentially affect military readiness, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”
The memo is expected to go out Monday.
Austin’s decision comes a bit more than a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. It reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world, as nations struggle with the highly contagious delta variant that has sent new U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths surging to heights not see since the peaks last winter.
Austin said in his memo says that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented. The additional time, however, also is a nod to the bitter political divisiveness over the vaccine and the knowledge that making it mandatory will likely trigger opposition from vaccine opponents across the state and federal governments, Congress and the American population.
It also provides time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. Without that formal approval, Austin would need a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.
Troops often live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spreading. And any large outbreak of the virus in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in any national security crisis.
People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the real danger has passed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
While PTSD is often associated with combat veterans, any survivor of a natural disaster, physical abuse or other traumatic event may suffer from it. The good news is that with professional help, PTSD is treatable.
But the first steps in getting help are learning the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options.
Knowing the risk factors
Several factors play a role in developing PTSD, such as individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event, the people involved in the event, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward.
You may be at higher risk if you:
Were directly involved in the traumatic event
Were injured or had a near-death experience
Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
Truly believed your life or that of someone around you was in danger
Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
Received little or no support following the event
Have multiple other sources of stress in your life
Recognizing the symptoms
Just as individual reactions to trauma vary, PTSD symptoms also differ from person to person. Symptoms may appear immediately after a traumatic event or they may appear weeks, months or even years later.
Although the symptoms of a “typical” stress reaction can resemble those of PTSD, true PTSD symptoms continue for a prolonged time period and often interfere with a person’s daily routines and commitments.
While only a trained medical professional can diagnose PTSD, possible signs of the disorder include:
Re-experiencing trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder frequently includes flashbacks, or moments in which the person relives the initial traumatic event or re-experiences the intense feelings of fear that surrounded it.
Avoidance/numbness. As a result of flashbacks or other negative feelings, people suffering from PTSD may avoid conversations or situations that remind them of the frightening event they survived.
Hyper arousal. Feeling constantly on edge, feeling irritable and having difficulty sleeping or concentrating are all possible signs of PTSD.
Children can also suffer from PTSD. In children, PTSD symptoms may differ from those seen in adults and may include trouble sleeping, acting out or regression in toilet training, speech or behavior. Parents of a child with PTSD may notice the child’s artwork or pretend play involves dark or violent themes or details.
Understanding the treatment options
Even suspecting you have PTSD is reason enough to get a professional opinion, especially when free help is available around the clock to service members and their families.
If you’re not sure whom to talk to, start with any of the following:
Military treatment facility or covered services.You can locate the nearest military treatment facility and covered services in the civilian community near you through the TRICARE website.
Your healthcare provider.If you receive health care in the community through a civilian provider, you can start by talking to your doctor.
Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.If you are eligible to receive care through a VA hospital or clinic, find the nearest facility through the Veterans Health Administration website.
Military Crisis Line.If you or anyone you know ever experiences thoughts of suicide, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. The Military Crisis Line staff can connect you with mental health support and crisis counseling services for a wide range of issues.
Remember, you are not alone. Free help is available 24/7 to service members and their families. Seeking help is a sign of strength that helps to protect your loved ones, your career, and your mental and physical health.