I have a lot of respect for the military. I appreciate what I’ve read written for them. It gave me a starting point and a feeling of support. I also used several ideas from the articles I read. PTSD Break the Silence is one of the Facebook pages I follow. Their perspective is from the military prospective and challenges. For this article, I am adding my comments in purple. Not to correct or rebut, instead to add my perspective of PTSD from childhood abuse. PTSD affects people from many walks of life. I believe working together we can help each other.
1. Rage, Agitation, and Frustration
Rage directed at the enemy promotes survival in the war zone, but may not serve the Soldier or his/her family well on the home front. In the War in Iraq, the enemy uses covert operations, the element of surprise, and hasty retreat. The insurgency is often not recognizable from non-combatants. It becomes all too easy to bear and unload rage against an unseen enemy and to carry an unbearable burden of frustration during wartime, particularly in response to a stealth enemy. These feelings can certainly escalate with continuous and intense combat exposure and in the face of the multiple losses of life, limb, and devastating injuries. Unfortunately, hauling such pent-up wrath, agitation, and the overwhelming desire to act upon impulse back home may have dire consequences.
2. Dehumanizing the Enemy
Wartime training fosters a standard detachment tactic: to dehumanize the enemy and to perceive them as evil, immoral, cruel, and inhuman. Though there may be great truth to this, such an approach endorses racism and the development of negative stereotypes, mind-sets, and language (towel heads, wops, gooks, and the like) aimed at the enemy. It is much simpler to seek out and destroy an enemy for which one has developed tremendous hatred, rather than an adversary who is seen as good, honorable, and fighting for a just cause. This kind of intense loathing can lead to condemnation of those who are of differing races, creeds, religions, and ethnic heritages, poisoning and polluting attitudes over the course of a lifetime and justifying the very rationale for the war itself in the minds of the Soldiers who fought it.
3. Social Isolation and Alienation
Emotional detachment is readily promoted by withdrawing from others. On the other hand, the remarkable bonds formed in times of hardship and adversity can sustain brother and sister Soldiers through what might otherwise be unendurable. This is a double-edged sword in wartime, with the overwhelming losses of fellow Soldiers occurring too frequently and in rapid succession. Time and time again, removing oneself from the nearness of human contact to avoid further agony when Soldiers are maimed or killed, becomes the mode of emotional survival. On the home front, Veterans may also become uncomfortable relating to anyone who is not a Veteran, as no one else could possibly appreciate their experiences.
Some war Veterans refuse to become involved with Veterans themselves, evade interactions and avoid any discussion of painful and disturbing memories and images.
4. Substance Abuse
Drinkin’ and druggin’ are the most commonly used means of numbing oneself out from what one prefers not to feel. Traditionally, alcohol intake is promoted in military circles, and is usually low-cost and readily available. Even in harsh and/or combat environments, Soldiers have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness in the acquisition or manufacture of alcohol and recreational drugs. Soldiers who arrived in theater with substance abuse problems may return with even more serious problems. There is also the potential to acquire an habitual use or abuse problem in theater, seemingly as a survival strategy to escape the psychological wounds of war. Back at home, it may become all too easy to fall back on this habit pattern in times of difficulty.
5. Risk-Taking and Thrill-Seeking
The adrenaline rush of wartime is a potent cocktail that can be physically, behaviorally, and psychologically addictive. A hankering for danger can be a hard habit to break. Though this may permit survival in combat and combat-related missions, becoming a thrill junkie may be very difficult to surrender upon return to the home front. Looking for life in the fast lane and living on the extremist edge of disaster is likely to plunge the Soldier right back into memories and emotions that characterized their wartime experiences. Like a crack addiction, there is no easy switch for shutting this off. For those not employed in high risk occupations (fire and rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement, Special Forces, Rangers, and so on), the need to satisfy the urge for excitement may lead to devastating consequences. There have been a startling number of Iraqi War Veterans killed in single-occupant vehicle accidents upon return to CONUS. Others may try to live life on the wildest side possible, engaging in excesses of speed, food, drink, and whatever extremes are available to them. There is rarely a happy ending in such cases.
6. GALLOWS HUMOR
Laughing about the endless horrors and chaos of war may be absurd and otherwise inappropriate, but finding amusement in the terrible, forges bonds of camaraderie and friendship in times of devastation and loss. Initially, this allow Soldiers to stop themselves from confronting genuine feelings in regard to the grisly and repulsive nature of war. This will not, however, remove associated feelings and images from the mind of the Soldier and may only serve to delay dealing with what may come back to haunt. Humor and irreverence is healthy and adaptive during challenging times in life. On the opposing side is the tendency to transport anger about what has been intolerable back to home, resulting in longstanding cynicism, rage, and the probability of derogatory, critical, and insulting remarks
in the face of mounting frustration.