Whenever the sound of thunder cracks throughout the sky, the traumatic episode is awakened and relived.
Private First-Class Katie, a human services major at Lorain County Community College who doesn’t want to reveal her last name, is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Katie developed PTSD due to her service in The United States Army. “I remember the first lightning storm after I got home,” said Katie. “The PTSD was really bad.”
The noise of thunder would remind Katie of her time of deployment. She was part of the military police unit stationed in Afghanistan in 2015, just two weeks after finishing boot camp. “I was driving a patrol car and the tank in front of me hit an explosive.” said Katie. She was thrown from the patrol car and rolled down a large sand dune. Katie had several injuries including breaking her hip bone. She was discharged from military service and returned home to North Ridgeville to recover.
PTSD is a disorder that occurs following an extreme traumatic event in which a person re-experiences the event, avoids reminders of the trauma, and exhibits persistent increased stress levels. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
Katie has spent the last two years recovering from the traumatic event in Afghanistan. She has spent a lot of that time in physical therapy as well as counseling. Katie not only has to deal with the physical pain and discomfort, but the mental pain and discomfort as well. “Loud noises still really bother me,” She said, “Thunderstorms and fireworks, things like that.” Loud noises are a constant reminder of the explosion that Katie endured while on deployment in Afghanistan. “The sensory overload is the most difficult, and the anxiety” said Katie.
PTSD had affected Katie to the point where she was anti-social. “I used to have frequent panic attacks and be very anti-social,” she said. Still to this day, she is healing physically and mentally from her traumatic experience. “Sometimes you just have to take it day by day.”
The National Center for PTSD estimates that 7 to 8 out of 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their life. They also report that women are more likely to develop PTSD over men. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and/or child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience an accident, physical assault, combat, disaster, and/or witness a death or injury.
Any war will take a physical and emotional toll on the Service members, families, and communities. PTSD has a long history but only newly identified. For example, shell shock was a name commonly used in World War I. In World War II, the term shell shock was replaced with Combat Stress Reaction, CSR, or “battle fatigue” as it was commonly known as. Half of the World War II military discharges were due to combat exhaustion according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
An individual can develop PTSD at any age including veterans, people who have experienced physical or sexual assault, abuse, have experienced an accident, or disaster.
Risk factors for PTSD include living through dangerous events or traumas, getting hurt/injured or watching someone else get seriously hurt or injured, observing a dead body, childhood traumas, feeling horror, helplessness or extreme fear. Not having a social support system after a trauma, stress after an event such as the death of a loved one, pain and/or injury, loss of job, home, or family, mental illness or substance abuse history can also be risk factors of a PTSD diagnosis.
Only a licensed doctor can diagnose disorders like PTSD. Treatment and therapies for PTSD include medications, psychotherapy, and/or group therapies. Katie stays proactive in treatment going to group and outpatient therapies. She engages in deep breathing as well as grounding methods when she is experiencing an uncomfortable situation. Katie’s advice to any military veteran or person’s struggling with PTSD is to seek help. “If a person is suffering, don’t let them feel or be alone.” She said. When asked how she feels about the military after her service, she anwers “It’s hard but you have to learn acceptance.”
The VA operates over 200 programs for Veterans and the treatment of PTSD. According to the VA, in the year of 2013, half of one million Veterans diagnosed with PTSD have received treatment at a VA medical center.