Advanced Essay #4 [PTSD In Veterans]

Intro: My goals for this paper were to talk about a topic that not many people probably know about. This is not exactly a personal essay, but more of an informative one because the topic is very serious and is a reality for many people, especially veterans who face war and combat everyday. I also wanted anyone who reads this to empathize and understand that over a quarter-million Vietnam War vets still have PTSD, so it is something that more people should be aware of.

Many people in the U.S have served for their country and in doing so, because of certain positions (like a combat veteran), have suffered traumatic experiences because of it. The victims of PTSD can carry a lot of grief along with survivor's guilt for many. When veterans come back from war, they can also struggle with substance abuse, anger issues, isolation, and more. The topic of treatment for vets with PTSD is a somewhat controversial one since treatment options can vary from therapy and psychotropic drugs, to alternatives like marijuana, but since that is still federally illegal, it is hard to bring to light.  PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. It is a big issue since such a large number of people that go into the war have traumatic experiences and can come back with their lives completely changed. PTSD affects about 31 percent of veterans just from the Vietnam War, but not just veterans. About 5.2 million people will experience PTSD in the U.S. during the course of a given year. If you suffer from any type of traumatic experience, you risk the chance of getting PTSD.

Veterans deal with even more issues like losing their houses, jobs, families, and more on top of dealing with mental stress. Psychiatrist and author Jonathan Shay explains how veteran’s personalities can be different when they return from combat “In combat, you have to shut down those emotions that do not directly serve survival. So sweetness, the gentler forms of humor, grief -- all shut down. And this is profoundly disconcerting to families when a soldier comes back, and he seems to be made out of ice. It's not that he is irrevocably and permanently incapable of feeling anything, yet that this adaptation of shutting down those emotions that don't directly serve survival in combat is persisting”. While in combat, soldiers are trained to fight and survive, so that leaves them to repress their emotions. Because of the strong belief among soldiers that the only thing that should be on your mind is serving and giving your all, processing what is actually happening is ignored. That is big reason as to why veterans realize that something is wrong when they come home.

Veterans do not realize that they may have a disorder like PTSD until after some time because sometimes they do not know until they recognize the many outbursts, severe anxiety, and insomnia/nightmares. To treat this, vets can get drugs to help with PTSD, but there are many downsides. “Mental health experts say the military's prescription drug problem is exacerbated by a U.S. Central Command policy that dates to October 2001 and provides deploying troops with up to a 180-day supply of prescription drugs under its Central Nervous System formulary.” Many of the drugs prescribed to veterans can be helpful forms of treatment, but the physical strain it puts on their minds and bodies can be even more damaging. Since a lot of the drugs are addictive, if you start to abuse them, it can be near impossible to stop. Drugs like Elavil is an antidepressant that actually caused suicidal thoughts, so the FDA now requires it to carry a black-box warning.

It is clear that militarism is heavily ingrained in our society and PTSD is a consequence of it, in and outside of war. These are ideas that we have to grasp, because people suffer from these disorders whether you recognize it or not. Your mind is so powerful that how you feel can technically be out of your control. PTSD is a real problem people face everyday and it requires awareness, especially for the people that have served for their country.