PTSD – Post traumatic stress disorder was gotten from the original meaning of the Greek word “trauma”, which is extreme “wound,” encountered in the physical sense. In today medicine, the term “psychological trauma” is used to describe a condition in which a person has experienced a difficult event that has wounded his or her inner self. There has been growing awareness of the fact that people who are exposed to unexpected events such as terrorist attacks or car accidents are often not only physically injured, but mentally hurt as well. This is Steve Bohn’s story.
- What is PTSD?
- What factors affect who develops PTSD?
- What are the symptoms of PTSD
- PTSD Treatment
Specialist Steve Bohn smiles and says, “I grew up surrounded by witches.”
He’s talking specifically of Salem, Massachusetts – calling it “the Halloween capital of the world.” Steve says it was a fun place to grow up, but sometimes feels he had to mature too soon.
“I had to leave Salem High School my senior year with only three credits left to graduate,” Steve recalls. “I got a full time job to help with bills – working as a cook for Whole Foods Market.”
Cooking was Steve’s first love. He especially enjoyed jambalaya, gumbo, and other Cajun cuisine. And he dreamed of one day opening his own restaurant, jokingly calling it “Chef Boyar-Steve’s.”
However, fate had a different idea for Steve.
“I was in ninth grade when 9/11 happened,” he explains. “It triggered an emotion of patriotism in me that I can’t explain. And in 2006, a local soldier was killed in Iraq, and I went to his funeral. I realized then that I wanted to serve; I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Steve joined the Army in June 2007 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 1/506th Infantry Regiment.
“I was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008, and it was like visiting another planet. You see the mud huts and the people living without electricity. We helped build schools for them and gave them access to clean water. It makes you appreciate everything you have back home.”
Especially when you consider the enemy mortared Steve’s outpost almost every day. And on Nov. 6, 2008, Steve got a wake-up call … literally.
“I had just finished eight hours of guard duty. I went back to the outpost to get some sleep, and about 10 minutes later I woke up with the roof on my head.”
It was a suicide bomber in a dump truck packed with 2,000 pounds of explosives. Steve suffered severe spinal injuries as well as other internal injuries. He fought to recover in the hospital for more than six months, endured two major surgeries that included resection of his small intestine and bladder reconstruction, and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Even with all these injuries, Steve says his greatest challenge was dealing with his sense of failure.
“My unit was still over there, and the guilt was burdening me. Getting on that medevac was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But ever since Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) contacted me, they gave me my life back.”
One of the things Steve says he did, which he wants to help others avoid, is bottling up emotions inside. He admits now he was depressed for a long time and lived with physical and emotional pain.
“WWP gave me the chance to talk with other warriors who have been through the same thing. If I’m ever having a bad day – mind, body, or spirit – they are there for me.”
That’s why, in May 2011, Steve was eager to testify to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs about meeting the unique needs of service members transitioning to civilian life. His testimony increased awareness of the difficulties Wounded Warriors face as they navigate the bureaucracy of getting the benefits they deserve.
“I wanted to turn a negative into a positive. Every day I thank God I’m alive. Life can be hard, but there are people who care. It’s my life’s passion to give hope to warriors who need a friend.”
Steve has also recently begun pursuing his college education through WWP’s TRACK™ program – the first education center in the nation designed specifically for Wounded Warriors – in Jacksonville, Florida.
“The TRACK program has given me the opportunity and motivation to get back into school and pursue a degree,” Steve says. “Wounded Warrior Project has been with me step by step and I could never repay them for what they have done for me. My passion in life is to help other veterans get the help they need and deserve. We have to stick together and tackle all obstacles as a team.” – WWP
What is PTSD?
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.
What factors affect who develops PTSD?
PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.
Personal factors, like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender, can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
It is normal to have stress reactions after a traumatic event. Your emotions and behavior can change in ways that are upsetting to you. Even though most people have stress reactions following a trauma, they get better in time. Symptoms of PTSD may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. You may find it hard just to get through the day. But, you should seek help if symptoms last longer than three months, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
There are four types of PTSD symptoms:
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
- You may have nightmares.
- You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
- You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
- You may avoid crowds because they feel dangerous.
- You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
- If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
- You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
- You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
- You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
You may be jittery or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
- You may have a hard time sleeping.
- You may have trouble concentrating.
- You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
- You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
If you have symptoms that last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life, you probably have PTSD. You should seek professional help from a doctor or counselor. There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling or talk therapy) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy, or counseling, involves meeting with a therapist.
Trauma-focused psychotherapy, which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning, is the most effective treatment for PTSD. There are different types of trauma-focused psychotherapy, such as:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where you learn skills to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE) where you talk about your trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. This will help you get more control over your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You also go to places or do things that are safe, but that you have been staying away from because they remind you of the trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which involves focusing on sounds or hand movements while you talk about the trauma. This helps your brain work through the traumatic memories.
Medications for PTSD
Medications can be effective too. Some specific SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), which are used for depression, also work for PTSD. These include sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine.
See your doctor for more treatment options. See a list of EMDR Therapist here.