Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder this Memorial Day

PTSD Affects More Than 13 Million People in the U.S., Including Veterans

Published : Saturday, May 25, 2019 | 6:03 AM

As America pauses this Memorial Day to remember those who paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom, it’s important to shed some light on post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition affecting many veterans.

For men and women who return home following tours overseas, having endured traumatic events that include combat, terrorist attacks, accidents or sexual assault can lead them to experience nightmares or flashbacks caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, which is referred to as PTSD. Those who suffer from PTSD often relive events that become seared in their memories and negatively affect their mental health.

With PTSD affecting more than 13 million people in the U.S, including 8% of all veterans, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD notes it is common to have symptoms right after a traumatic event such as combat. However, if they last longer than a month, it may be PTSD.

“Veterans with PTSD are impacted in different ways,” said Dr. Juan-Carlos Zuberbuhler with Kaiser Permanente, which maintains its Southern California regional headquarters here in Pasadena. “What many have in common, however, is that PTSD can negatively affect how a person handles daily activities such as a job, going to school or having healthy relationships with your spouse, children, friends and loved ones. That can often lead to shame, social withdrawal, anxiety, sleep disorders, or even suicide.”

Dr. Zuberbuhler noted the simplest triggers can make someone with PTSD feel like their nervous system becomes hijacked by a panic reaction, which can cause you to fight (get angry), flight (avoid), or freeze (feel numb).

“Certain factors increase the chances of someone developing PTSD, including having directly experienced or repeatedly witnessing the aftermath of a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event,” he added. “Thus, in addition to direct victims, many first responders or healthcare providers can be at risk for developing PTSD.”

For those with PTSD, doing the following may improve a person’s path to recovery:

  • Always attend scheduled counseling sessions and doctor’s appointments.

  • In times of anxiety, reassure and comfort yourself by saying, and keep on going.

  • Make sure you get sufficient rest.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and illegal drug use, as they can raise your anxiety level and cause problems with sleeping.

  • Exercise.

  • Use proven relaxation techniques.

  • Get involved in your community.

Because there are times when PTSD can cause severe anxiety and other mental health challenges,
Dr. Zuberbuhler emphasized it’s important to know when to seek help.

“If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, then call 911,” he said. “Also, contact your doctor if your symptoms get worse, or you feel your state of mental health isn’t improving.”

Kaiser Permanente offers valuable care instructions for those with PTSD.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/