This is an overview page. Greater details are presented on the complete Symptoms page, there is now also a new and up-to-date page with the Diagnostic Criteria of Post-traumatic Stress.
If you would like to know where you stand with combat trauma or PTSD, visit this link to a Brief Check List. If you do not read any other page on this site, this is the one for all of us and I would share the information with your family doctor!
Something to think about when you start to have adverse reactionsand drive fast or drink a little to much!!
This section deals with understanding the symptoms of PTSD. Please note that since I'm a Vietnam Era vet, it states the information for my generation. This information is for all survivors of a traumatic event but is empathized for combat personnel.
You may change VC to insurgents, Vietnam with Afghanistan or Iraq, then change jungle into "Sandlot". The results are the same, Trauma, Depression, Isolation, Guilt... and the list goes on!
They feel depressed; "How can I tell my wife, she'd never understand?" they ask. "How can anyone who hasn't been there understand?"
Accompanying the depression is a very well developed sense of helplessness about one's condition. Vietnam-style combat held no final resolution of conflict for anyone. Regardless of how one might respond, the overall outcome seemed to be just an endless production of casualties with no perceivable goals attained. Regardless of how well one worked, sweated, bled and even died, the outcome was the same. Our GIs gained no ground; they were constantly rocketed or mortared. They found little support from their "friends and neighbors" back home, the people in whose name so many were drafted into military service. They felt helpless. They returned to the United States, trying to put together some positive resolution of this episode in their lives, but the atmosphere at home was hopeless. They were still helpless. Why even bother anymore?
Many veterans report becoming extremely isolated when they are especially depressed. Substance abuse is often exaggerated during depressive periods. Self medication as an easily learned coping response in Vietnam; alcohol appears to be the drug of choice.
When someone has a major "Attack" of depression they start to think about the value of their lives. How much have they improved the standard of living, upheld family values, disappointment in wasting their lives and in many cases where the PTSD has been chronic, they have Wasted their lives by not reaching a "Higher standard of Living" or accomplishment. The outcome to this is a path to possible suicide. This is where counseling, group Therapy, and medications needs to be used! (Understand that when this depression "Hits" we are in pain, ended a relationship, lost another job, and we can't see going on with the same routine. The idea of suicide becomes a tool for an easy out of all the combined pain! RN)
Combat veterans have few friends. Many veterans who witnessed traumatic experiences complain of feeling like old men in you men's bodies. They feel isolated and distant from their peers. The veterans feel that most of their non-veteran peers would rather not hear what the combat experience was like; therefore, they feel rejected. Much of what many of these veterans had done during the war would seem like horrible crimes to their civilian peers. But, in the reality faced by Vietnam combatants, such actions were frequently the only means of survival.
The veterans' rage is frightening to them and to others around them. For no apparent reason, many will strike out at whomever is near. Frequently, this includes their wives and children. Some of these veterans can be quite violent. This behavior generally frightens the veterans, apparently leading many to question their sanity; they are horrified at their behavior. However, regardless of their afterthoughts, the rage reactions occur with frightening frequency.
Avoidance of Feelings: Alienation
The spouses of many of the veterans I have interviewed complain that the men are cold, uncaring individuals. Indeed, the veterans themselves will recount episodes in which they did not feel anything when they witnessed a death of a buddy in combat or the more recent death of a close family relative. They are often somewhat troubled by these responses to tragedy; but, on the whole, they would rather deal with tragedy in their own detached way. What becomes especially problematic for these veterans, however, is an inability to experience the joys of life. They often describe themselves as being emotionally dead.
When others have died and some have not, the survivors often ask, "How is it that I survived when others more worthy than I did not?" Survival guilt is an especially guilt-invoking symptom. It is not based on anything hypothetical. Rather, it is based on the harshest of realities, the actual death of comrades and the struggle of the survivor to live. Often the survivor has had to compromise himself or the life of someone else in order to live. The guilt that such an act invokes or guilt over simply surviving may eventually end in self-destructive behavior by the survivor.
Many Vietnam veterans describe themselves as very vigilant human beings; their autonomic senses are tuned to anything out of the ordinary. A loud discharge will cause many of them to start. A few will actually take such evasive action as falling to their knees or to the ground. Many veterans become very uncomfortable when people walk closely behind them. One veteran described his discomfort when people drive directly behind him. He would pull off the road, letting others pass, when they got within a few car lengths of him.
War Enters Classrooms ~ Fear Grips Afghans
Traumatic memories of the battlefield and other less affect-laden combat experiences often play a role in the daytime cognition's of combat veterans. Frequently, these veterans report replaying especially problematic combat experiences over and over again. Many search for possible alternative outcomes to what actually happened in Vietnam. Many castigate themselves for what they might have done to change the situation, suffering subsequent guilt feelings today because they were unable to do so in combat. The vast majority report that these thoughts are very uncomfortable, yet they are unable to put them to rest.
Such experiences among Vietnam veterans are rare, but not as uncommon as many may believe. Many veterans report flashback episodes that last only a few seconds. For many, the sound of a helicopter flying overhead is a cute to forget reality for a few seconds and remember Vietnam, re-experiencing feelings they had there. It is especially troublesome for those veterans who are still" numb" and specifically attempting to avoid these feelings. For others, it is just a constant reminder of their time in Vietnam, something they will never forget.