What is military PTSD?

4/07/2024

Talking about what no one wants to talk about: the impact of post-traumatic stress on military life and tactics for coping with it

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a serious accident, war, sexual assault, or natural disaster. This disorder is characterized by a series of symptoms that can profoundly affect the daily lives of those who suffer from it.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four main categories:

  1. Re-experiencing the trauma
    • Recurrent and distressing memories of the event.
    • Nightmares related to the trauma.
    • Flashbacks, where the person feels like they are reliving the traumatic event.
  2. Avoidance
    • Avoiding places, people, and activities that remind them of the traumatic event.
    • Feelings of detachment and alienation from others.
    • Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event.
  3. Alterations in mood and thoughts
    • Persistent negative thoughts about oneself or the world.
    • Feelings of guilt or shame.
    • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
    • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions.
  4. Alterations in reactivity and arousal
    • Irritability and angry outbursts.
    • Self-destructive behavior.
    • Hypervigilance.
    • Problems with concentration and sleep.

Causes and risk factors

PTSD can develop in people of all ages and backgrounds. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD, but certain factors can increase the risk, such as:

  • Severity of trauma: more severe or repeated events.
  • Personal history: having a history of mental disorders.
  • Social support: lack of support from friends and family.
  • Other stresses: additional stress related to the traumatic event, such as the loss of a loved one or job loss.
PTSD in military life

PTSD is especially prevalent among military personnel due to the traumatic nature of their service. Veterans and active-duty soldiers may face extreme situations that deeply impact their mental health. Combat, dangerous missions, and exposure to death and suffering are factors that contribute to the development of PTSD in this population.

Tactics for coping with PTSD

Managing PTSD can be challenging, but several strategies can help individuals cope with and overcome the symptoms.

Therapy and treatment
  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that perpetuate stress. CBT includes techniques like prolonged exposure, which helps individuals face and reduce the fear associated with trauma.
  2. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): uses directed eye movements to help individuals process and heal from trauma.
  3. Family or group therapy: facilitates support from loved ones and open communication about the trauma and its effects.
Medication

Medications, such as antidepressants and anxiolytics, can be useful in reducing PTSD symptoms. It is crucial that medication is prescribed and supervised by a healthcare professional.

Self-help strategies
  1. Physical exercise: helps reduce stress and improve mood.
  2. Relaxation techniques: practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help calm the mind and body.
  3. Establishing routines: maintaining a daily routine can provide a sense of control and stability.
  4. Connecting with others: talking with friends, family, or joining support groups can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.

Never talked about in Spain: Arsenal of hope and NEXO Transmil

This is a topic that has been very little discussed in countries like Spain, and we are far from offering the necessary support to our veterans. In Spain, military personnel, including officers, often receive low salaries and much less recognition compared to their counterparts in other countries. This lack of acknowledgment and financial support exacerbates the challenges faced by veterans dealing with PTSD. Recovery from PTSD is possible, and many sources of hope and support are available:

  • Education and knowledge: understanding PTSD and its effects can empower individuals to seek and accept help.
  • Support networks: organizations and support groups can offer resources and assistance.
  • Personal resilience: fostering resilience through self-care and seeking positive experiences can significantly improve the quality of life.
  • Projects like NEXO Transmil: initiatives dedicated to providing comprehensive support to military personnel and veterans, helping them transition to civilian life and manage post-traumatic stress.

International references in PTSD support: GSOF, USSOCOM, and others

In Spain, we should take as an example organizations from other countries, such as the American ones that care for and offer tailored programs to their veterans. The example to follow of good work that has been done for many years internationally is marked by institutions such as the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and in the last ten by the Global Special Operations Forces Foundation (GSOF). Additionally, organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project, The Headstrong Project, and Operation Jump 22 also play crucial roles in PTSD care and treatment, offering innovative therapies and continuous support to veterans​​. These organizations provide resources, research, and advocacy for special operations forces around the world, emphasizing mental health and resilience.

 

  • USSOCOM: USSOCOM is a unified combatant command of the United States Department of Defense. It oversees the special operations component commands of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. Its mission includes organizing, training, and equipping special operations forces to conduct global operations. USSOCOM emphasizes mental health and resilience for its personnel, providing resources and support for those dealing with PTSD.
  • GSOF (Global Special Operations Forces Foundation): Established in the last decade, GSOF is dedicated to advocating for the interests and welfare of special operations forces worldwide. It provides a platform for collaboration, education, and research to improve the health and effectiveness of special operations forces. GSOF promotes mental health initiatives and supports efforts to address PTSD among its members.
  • Wounded Warrior Project: Provides comprehensive support to veterans, including mental health services and rehabilitation programs. The Wounded Warrior Project offers various programs to help veterans recover from physical and mental injuries, emphasizing the importance of mental health care and support networks.
  • The Headstrong Project: Offers confidential, barrier-free mental health treatment to veterans, focusing on evidence-based care. The Headstrong Project provides veterans with access to effective and individualized treatment for PTSD and other mental health issues, aiming to remove the stigma associated with seeking help.
  • Operation Jump 22: Raises awareness and funds for veteran mental health through community events and adrenaline-fueled activities like skydiving. Operation Jump 22 combines the excitement of skydiving with a mission to support veterans, using community events to highlight the importance of mental health care for those who have served.
  • Warrior Care Network: Partners with top medical centers to provide intensive outpatient care for PTSD and related conditions. This network collaborates with renowned medical institutions to offer veterans comprehensive and tailored treatment plans, ensuring they receive the highest quality care available.
  • War Horses for Veterans: Uses therapeutic horsemanship to help veterans manage PTSD symptoms and build resilience. Through interaction with horses, veterans can find a unique form of therapy that helps them cope with PTSD, fostering emotional and psychological healing.

In summary, PTSD is a serious but manageable disorder. With the right combination of therapy, support, and self-care strategies, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

More information about Nexo Transmil project

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