Military veterans, after years of fighting and defending their countries both home and abroad, do not only come back with medals and songs of victory. Sadly, many times, they come back also with gory memories, deaths of colleagues, tales of violence that are too great for words and these cause them to experience what is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Through the years, there has been increasing pieces of evidence for healing PTSD naturally through the use of non-pharmacological interventions, such as alternative therapies, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, nutrition, and physical activities. This article explores these non-pharmacological interventions that have proven effective in the treatment of PTSD in veterans.
(Photo taken 8 September 2016 by Erin Bolling, USAMMDA PAO)
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD, also called battle fatigue syndrome is a serious condition that results as a consequence of having the experience of traumatic ordeals that cause horror, intense fear, helplessness, war, accident, disasters, and other such conditions. Many essays online such as on StudyMoose describe PTSD infographic and bring clarity to the occurrence and incidence of PTSD among veterans, you will find that these heroes of war are many times traumatized by the things they have seen and experienced.
The symptoms of PTSD have the attribute of not always beginning immediately after the incidence, but months and sometimes years after they have occurred. PSTD causes and effects in symptoms such as hallucinations, nightmares, feelings of intense distress when reliving memories of the events, avoidance of people, places, thoughts and situations that remind them of the war for the veteran, negative cognitions and mood, as well as physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate.
How PTSD is Diagnosed
Unlike many medical conditions that can be medically diagnosed by scans or laboratory examinations, PTSD cannot be diagnosed in such terms. Usually, a complete medical history and physical examination are sufficient to reveal PTSD in the things they carried for war veterans, but to be more objective, the physician may have to carry out other tests to rule out the possibility of physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.
Treatment for PTSD
While making a diagnosis of PTSD is important, what is much more important is getting these valiant men of war get better in their health. While the treatment of PTSD consists of the use of medications, such as antidepressants to control the feeling of anxiety, usually sense in the veterans, research has shown and revealed that PTSD success stories are rising by the day through the use of non-pharmacological treatments and therapies.
Non-Pharmacological Treatment of PTSD in Veterans
Alternative therapies without the use of pharmacologic agents begin with a comprehensive assessment of the condition, with a sound understanding of the events which trigger the things they carried PTSD. A challenge with older veterans recalls the experience of the traumatic experiences which took place between 40-60 years earlier and remains with them the greater part of their lives. This results in a significant impact on their health, can worsen chronic diseases, and result in cognitive decline.
The trauma story plays a role in cognitive therapy for the patient with PTSD. When the patient tries to narrate the trauma story, he tries to reconstruct the fragments of the memories, which causes him the symptoms he experiences into a coherent narration that is comprehensible. This allows the natural recovery process to begin.
Next, the trauma story also allows the patient a great level of accommodation for the psychological and physiological responses to those memories, reducing the fear response to the events, and also allows the patient to spend lesser effort on avoidance process and result in greater emotional healing.
Another therapy in the non-pharmacological treatment of PTSD is insulation reduction. This helps to limit the occurrence of penetrating memories and dreams, as well as insensitivity symptoms in PTSD, most especially detachment from others.
Group therapies can prove to be highly helpful in achieving this, as in the company of people who are all looking forward to being healed of their traumatic experiences, isolation will be drastically reduced, and the veteran can be able to relate once again with other veterans who he meets in the group therapy sessions.
Individual or group psychotherapy can help to reduce the symptoms of increased excitability often found in veterans with PTSD. This therapy helps to discuss with the veteran their medical prescriptions and procedures, and in the process of discussion, the patient is convinced not to avoid them but to develop the needed strategies to successfully manage anxiety.
To manage anxiety, there is a need to understand the influence of the trauma on the patient’s life and carry out an evaluation of its effects. This will help to know the strengths of the veteran, and these strengths can be worked into combating the effects or symptoms of anxiety which the veteran might experience.
Fitness Programs and Meditation
Fitness and exercise affect the veteran’s overall neurological activity, and it has been proven to be effective in alleviating mental health issues as well as the symptoms of PTSD. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, playing sports and so on can be effective in improving the overall health of veterans with PTSD.
Also, meditation programs such as Yoga helps to stabilize the emotions of the veteran and can help aid the treatment of the condition, especially if the veteran can exercise patience and carry out this exercise for a good period usually between one and a halt to two years.
For best outcomes, the treatment of PTSD involves the combination of the different methods described above, and these methods are indeed easy to employ, especially in veteran organizations. A great advantage which this method has is the ease with which it can be utilized without excessive investments.