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These Wounds Run Deep: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its effect

We have gone into the depths of stress and ways to fight it, but no matter how hard we try, stress finds a way to creep back into our lives. This week, we look into a condition which is often ignored or not acknowledged by the victims- Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition which is generally caused when a person experiences traumatic events such as serious injury, the threat of death and victimisation. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyper arousal continue for more than a month after the traumatic event.However, most people having experienced a traumatizing event generally do not develop PTSD. Also, it has been found that women are more likely to experience higher impact events, and are also more likely to develop PTSD than men. Children are less likely to experience PTSD after trauma than adults, especially if they are less than ten years of age. War veterans are the most commonly affected by PTSD.

Until a few years ago, a war veteran attempted suicide every eighty minutes. That amounted to approximately eighteen suicide attempts each day. While the numbers have been decreased over the years, the situation is worrisome nonetheless. This is how badly PTSD affects war veterans- people who were trained to survive any kind of ordeal find themselves craving death, rather than relive the horrors which they lived through years ago. Witnessing close friends being killed in the battlefield is one of the most common triggers of PTSD. People suffering from PTSD feel like their lives or the lives of others were in danger. They often feel they had no control over what was happening. Sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or years after the event or returning from deployment. They may also come and go. Veterans often experience nightmares and feel guilty for not having done enough to ensure safety for all, which leads to anger and irritability. Sleepless nights are common and patients generally lose interest in everything.

So what are its effects?

PTSD has many give-away signs which include feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened. Patients have nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event, making them relive the traumatic events. Veterans often become depressed. Sadly, alcohol and drugs become their last resort. One of the biggest problems faced by PTSD patients is acknowledgement. Having been trained for combat and sacrifice their entire lives, many soldiers feel ashamed to admit that combat itself has left them unstable. Veterans often resign from active duty abruptly and resort to alcohol. We often hear incidents where soldiers or ex-soldiers kill fellow servicemen without provocation. Suicide rate are also high, especially in soldiers who have served in conflict zones, especially Kashmir and Naxal areas.

Seeking help

The first step in fighting PTSD is to admit it as a condition. There should be no shame in admitting it. In fact, the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get help and resume being your normal self. With changing times, counselling and medication have proven to be good tools to fight PTSD. Professional counselling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. Friends and family, too, can be great a great help. Talk to them as much as possible, expressing your troubles. Sharing actually helps reduce your pain. Medications, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are used to help you feel less worried or sad. In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma—and change how you react to stressful memories.

While Hollywood movies like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket showcase a common soldier’s ordeal with PTSD in the west, there aren’t many movies which work the same way for the Indian soldier. As such, PTSD in the Indian soldier remains largely unknown. The problem is much worse than we think. The Indian society, sadly, does not give much importance to psychological effects of traumatic events. Indian war veterans suffer the same fate. The Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) and the Department of Defence are the only ones looking into PTSD currently. With a lack of forthcoming volunteers suffering from PTSD, their studies are limited. However, the Indian Army does realise the importance of psychological well-being of its soldiers and is gradually coming up with guidelines to keep their soldiers sound. Soldiers are entitled to avail full casual leave in one go. An increased provision of free warrants to home town from field areas to twice a year has led to better mental stability. Besides, a soldier has confidence that he can visit his hometown anytime he wants. The Indian Armed Forces have also developed numerous Rest and Recoup Centres in operational areas. There has also been a significant increase in hardship related allowances. Indian soldiers are also entitled to any kind of psychiatric help they might require at Military hospitals.

Put in simpler terms, PTSD is an extremely aggravated condition wherein the patient suffers from a plethora of symptoms triggered by traumatic pasts. We experience post-traumatic stress daily, even without our knowing, but it’s time to seek help when it becomes extreme. PTSD is all about acceptance- acceptance by society, acceptance of the condition and most importantly, acceptance of a traumatic past. Only then can the mind rest peacefully.

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cloudchowk is a healthcare software company based out of Delhi. Its software help medical labs, clinics and patients share information and collaborate seamlessly.

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