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Living with PTSD

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the third most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among those using Veterans Affairs hospitals. We spoke with retired Navy veteran, Carl Wolf, about his experience in Vietnam and how we can offer a better support system to those who fight for our freedom.

“The Chinese flew over us with their bombs...we didn't know.” For Wolf, memories of his time in at war come and go. “I still wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares, flashbacks,” and while they don't happen very often he suspects him and his friends all came back with some sort of trauma, fear, and anxiety, something they referred to as shell shock, since the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder didn't exist back then.

Wolf said, “Most people don't understand PTSD. I don't, what I read about it, hear about it,” and he isn’t alone. PTSD cannot be narrowly defined. It occurs after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster, and for most, talking about what was seen or experienced isn't something veterans feel comfortable doing.

Wolf said, “When I first came back, most of us probably just shut up and didn't say anything.”

“It used to be that you didn't want to say you had PTSD or anything going on, for fear that you'd lose your job,” said Bryan Gray, a counselor at the Billings Vet Center. He adds these are common reactions for combat veterans returning from war.

“They might get detached from their family members because they may not understand what they have been through...depression, hopelessness, type stuff can happen,” Gray mentioned there are several outreach programs you can look into if you are suffering from PTSD, such as the Vet Center, the Veteran Affairs office, and even mobile apps, like Family Coach. For families, sometimes noticing the signs can have a huge impact. Look for signs of irritability, lack of sleep, and a short fuse. Gray said that’s not normal behavior, so seeing a counselor or talking to a battle buddy can be beneficial.  

Wolf said “Pay attention to the idea that maybe when they come back they aren't quite the same as when they left.”

For more information on PTSD you can visit http://www.ptsd.va.gov/.

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