Lewiston Sun Journal photo illustration by and courtesy of Amber Waterman and Heather McCarthy


In this section:
  • About PTS
  • Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter waging war on PTSD
  • The Symptoms
  • PTSD and Suicides
  • History of PTSD
  • Click on any Title above to read that Section

    About PTS

    Post-traumatic Stress is a normal and predictable response to overwhelming, uncontrollable, potentially life-threating events including war zone duty, natural disasters, physical or sexual abuse or terrible accidents. War Trauma Focus Group

    “PTSD symptoms are not signs of mental illness. The person who manifests PTSD symptoms is “responding to specific experiences and needs help in identifying and resolving the issues raised by these experiences.” Neither is PTSD a sign that an individual is psychologically “weak.”
    Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis---an internationally recognized trauma specials in Post-traumatic Stress and other anxiety disorders

    “Some exposed to traumatic events do not develop PTSD, others go on to develop the full-blown syndrome. For some individuals with PTSD, the traumatic event remains, sometimes for decades or a lifetime, a dominating psychological experience that retains its power to evoke panic, terror, dread, grief or despair as manifested in daytime fantasies, traumatic nightmares, and psychotic reenactments known as “flashbacks” -- Dr. Mathew Friedman, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Dartmouth Medical School, Executive Director, Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, 1989 to 2013

    Although a single instance of overwhelming terror can alter the chemistry of the brain, making people more sensitive to adrenaline surges even decades later, developing PTSD from one incident is rare. But if trauma happens over and over, even if each event is not catastrophic, a person is likely to get PTSD. The brain and the body do not get to rest and recuperate between times of high alert and terror such as in a war zone. Hypervigilance becomes a constant, even when no danger is actually present. Hypervigilance alone makes life unpleasant and sometimes terrible, constantly holding ready for the disaster that is around every corner. Hypervigilance alone can cause other problems as every nerve, every synapse, every muscle, uses all the energy a body can produce.

    Because of the constant state of arousal, anger comes easily and without warning, and the ringing of the telephone causes you to jump out of your skin. You can’t fall asleep, if you do, you can’t stay asleep. Even if you sleep you can’t rest. You are tense all the time, even if you hide it from others. All your energy goes to staying alert, and you are preoccupied with keeping flashbacks at bay--- all the while trying to maintain a reasonable facade. Dr. Reid Lyons, a Vietnam Combat veteran with PTSD and is one of the nation’s foremost research scholars in the field of the neurobiology of PTSD

    Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter waging war on PTSD

    excerpts from www.ARMY.mil 2/24/14

    Staff Sgt. Ty Carter has two words for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, “get help”.

    Carter developed post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD after his experiences at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan, where he said every day was “like the Wild Wild West.” Fire fights were a constant, and October 3, 2009 conditions escalated to the extreme when more than 300 anti-Afgan forces attempted to overrun the outpost of 53 soldiers of Black Night Troop. Eventually the soldiers of Black Night Troop beat back the attack, but at a devastating price: eight dead 25 wounded.

    Despite his many heroic actions during battle, Cater was haunted by the fact that he wasn’t able to save his friend, Spc. Stephen Mace. He no longer felt equipped to save a life and he felt like a failure, “I lost faith in who I was and what I was doing.”

    At first he resisted getting treatment for PTSD, and had a misconception about the condition. It isn’t really a disorder, Carter pointed out, it is a learning mechanism to help us avoid danger. However, it can become problematic following extreme trauma.

    He said seeking counseling and going through counseling is a difficult process but it is the only way to heal, and it is the only way you can help yourself and help others.

    “Education is the only thing that can end the stigma,” Carter said.
    Excerpts from The Boston Globe and www.ARMY.mil


    It is important to note that not everyone with Post-traumatic Stress will experience all the symptoms listed here.

  • Feeling anxious, tense, jumpy
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Fits of rage over nothing
  • Trouble remembering or concentrating
  • Jumpy, nervous, startle easy, and don’t like being in crowds
  • Some feel like they are going crazy because they can’t stop
        feeling this way
  • Depression
  • Social isolation and troubled relationships with other people
  • Increased hostility and anger
  • Poor coping skills
  • Increase use in alcohol and drugs
  • Poor eating habits
  • Sufferers of PTSD frequently say they can’t feel emotions
        toward those whom they are closest
  • Many develop depression and at times abuse alcohol or other
        drugs as a “self-medication” to blunt their emotions and
        forget the trauma
  • Relationships are often trouble spots. Often conflicts are
        resolved by withdrawing emotionally or even by becoming
        physically violent
  • Panic attacks with symptoms of extreme fear resembling that
        which they felt during the trauma. They become sweaty, have
        trouble breathing, have increased heart rates, feel dizzy, and
        have stomachaches and headaches
  • Flashbacks--- Sudden and vivid memories so strong that the
        individual actually thinks they are experiencing the trauma
        again or seeing it unfold before their eyes
       Psychiatric Association

  • Suicides and Military Prevention Programs

    Once every 72 minutes. That’s how often U.S. military veterans kill themselves.

    According to the Department of Veteran Affairs most recent study around 20 veterans commit suicide per day

    For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans repeated tours have driven up the rate of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which in turn, generates an increase in suicide attempts among those suffering from PTSD Time’s Battleland News Magazine

    “Here you are, you went to war and you killed the enemy and performed wonderfully. And now you have some very human moments, feelings and emotions.” “It is a perfect storm because a lot of them haven’t been reporting their psychological problems, their alienation, because the very fact that the services may seize on that to make them part of the downgrade and let them go.” “Many service members are fearful about being forced out of the military for psychological problems, that is devastating for Marines and soldiers and corpsmen who want to stay in.” “The official Marine Corps suicide prevention program counsels that “leaders teach that knowing when to seek help for stress is a trait of a strong committed Marine.” Bill Rider, chief executive and cofounder of American Combat Veterans of War, USMC Sgt Vietnam 1968-69… The San Diego Union-Tribune

    For both Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and suicides, part of the issue is not necessarily combat related,” Dr. M. David Rudd, the co-founder and scientific director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah told Fox News. He cited the “stress of being in the military during wartime,” saying there’s an intensified operations pace for those both deployed and at home

    “The earlier you ask, the more effective treatment is,” Rudd said. “People with PTSD often do not report it for years and it may become severe, making the disorder more difficult to treat” Zoe Szathmary, Fox News

    “The good news is that officials have seen a decrease in suicide rates of veterans who seek care within the VA health system. Of the 20 deaths a day, only about five are patients in the health system.” “What we are seeing is getting help does matter. Treatment does work.” “The Challenge is expanding that outreach. Persuading younger veterans to seek care remains particularly problematic, because of stigma associated with mental health problems”. Jan Kemp, past director of the VA’s National Mental Health Director for Suicide Prevention--- Stars and Stripes

    Marine Programs

    The Marines alcohol abuse and prevention campaign also requires that every battalion and squadron have a suicide prevention program officer.

    Because of the stigma against asking for help and fear of career repercussions, the Marine Corps has mandated yearly “Never Leave a Marine Behind” suicide prevention training for all Marines.

    Army Programs

    “The Army has certified nearly 2,500 military and civilian leaders to be able to interact with soldiers on suicide prevention, and has conducted thousands of hours of training with the troops.” “Suicide remains a daunting issue for the Army and the nation and “defies easy solutions.” “The service has expanded soldiers’ access to behavioral health services to improve their ability to cope with the stress that can be caused by separation, deployments, financial pressures, other work-related issues and relationships.” Paul Price, Army spokesman, Associated Press

    The Army has spent tens of millions of dollars in a long-term study of suicide, teaming with the National Institute of Health, and has developed a comprehensive program of installing emotional resilience in soldiers. “I think we have hit the turning point where people are really, really talking about behavioral health and the fact that it is OK to have problems. It’s what you do with those problems that’s important.” Lt General Howard Bromberg, chief of Army personnel Stars and Stripes

    Navy Programs

    "Among the Navy’s numerous assistance and educational programs is ACT, which urges awareness in all Sailors and gives distinct actions to be taken if someone is suspected to be suicidal. "The 'A' stands for ask, which is simply asking the affected person if they are thinking about suicide. 'C' is care, letting the person know you care about them. Finally, 'T' represents treat, which is to get the person treatment as soon as possible," Dr. Julie Ruddy, director of Recruit Mental Health at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC)…America’s Navy

    "A year ago, we launched an effort we called Task Force Resilient, which primarily aimed at the causes of suicide. We brought every resource we could bring to bear to the issue of building resiliency in our Sailors and their families.” "For suicide, resiliency represents the process of preparing for, recovering from, and adjusting to life in the face of stress, adversity, trauma, or tragedy. We found through our research that there is a link between suicide prevention and resiliency, and that resiliency can be learned." Rear Adm. Sean Buck, director of the 21st Century Sailor Office… America’s Navy

    Air Force Programs

    The Air Force has a program that emphasizes leadership responsibilities in the effort to prevent suicides and a new web site that includes tips on recognizing distressed personnel.” Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth, Associated Press
    These are some of the programs we are aware of and there likely are more not just in the military, but veteran support organizations as well.

    History of Post-traumatic Stress

    PTSD is a fairly new name for an old story that has had severe psychological impact on people in immediate and lasting ways. PTSD has been with us for thousands of years as incidents in history prove beyond a doubt.Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    Three Thousand years ago an Egyptian combat veteran wrote about the feelings he experienced, “Shuddering seizes you, the hair on your head stands on end, your soul lies in your hand.” Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    Greeks and Romans
    The ancient Greeks and Romans also experienced PTSD. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Spartan commander Leonidas, who at the battle of Thermopylae Pass in 480 BC, dismissed his men from joining the combat because he clearly could recognize they were psychologically spent from previous battles. Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    English and Danes
    Records show PTSD effects on soldiers in the battle of 1003 AD between the English and Danes. Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    Swiss, Germans, French and Spanish
    It appears Swiss military physicians in 1678 were among the first to identify and name that constellation of behaviors that make up acute combat reaction or PTSD. “Nostalgia” was the term they used. Around this time the German doctors diagnosed the problem among their troops and referred to it as heimweh (homesickness). In time the French termed it maladie du pays (homesickness) and the Spanish called it estar roto, (to be broken). Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    English and Spanish
    In the siege of Gibraltar during the Anglo-Spanish War, 1727 to 1729, a soldier who was part of the defense of the city describes a state of extreme physical fatigue which had caused soldiers to lose their ability to understand or process even the simplest of instructions. In this state the soldiers refused to eat, drink, work, or fight even though they would be repeatedly whipped for not doing so. Steven Bentley, Vietnam Veterans Magazine

    U.S. Civil War
    During the Civil War D. Decosta, an Army surgeon, reported high levels of tension, fast heart rate, inability to sleep, and fear of returning to combat. PTSD became known then as “Soldiers Heart”.PTSD Among Military Veterans, Dr. Tom Williams, Disabled American Veterans

    World War I
    “Shell Shock” During World War I the thinking of the medical profession was that tremendous shelling caused small blood vessels to burst and that high air pressure of the exploding shells caused physiological damage. The symptoms included running amok, jumpiness, irritability, trouble sleeping and physical tremors. By the end of the war the symptoms that seemed to afflict so many survivors was called “War Neurosis”. PTSD Among Military Veterans, Dr. Tom Williams, Disabled American Veterans

    World War II
    “Battle Fatigue” This term was started by US forces in Tunisia, North Africa. Battlefield medical personnel found that rest, food, and returning troops to their units helped them deal with emotional and physical problems related to combat. The psychiatric casualty rate was high during WWII despite psychological screening which supposedly weeded out weak men prone to mental collapse. After WWII military experts concluded that the trauma of war was often enough to impair even the “strongest and toughest” of men. PTSD Among Military Veterans, Dr. Tom Williams, Disabled American Veterans

    Korean War
    “Gross Stress Reaction” The military now aware of “war neurosis” provided immediate, on-site help to afflicted servicemen. This assistance reduced the percentage of evacuations for psychiatric reasons from 23% during WW II to 6% during the Korean War. Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis

    Vietnam War
    During the Vietnam War, in an attempt to further reduce the psychiatric casualty rate, the one-year tour of duty was adopted.Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis

    During the Vietnam War there were very few battlefield emotional casualties. The emotional distress began to show after they returned home. This delay in symptoms was called “delayed stress reaction” and “post-Vietnam syndrome”. PTSD Among Military Veterans, Dr. Tom Williams, Disabled American Veterans

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder officially recognized
    In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association officially adopted the term PTSD to denote a psychological disorder that stems from exposure to an extraordinary traumatic event. PTSD Among Military Veterans, Dr. Tom Williams, Disabled American Veterans

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