As Americans, we look forward to celebrating the 4th of July by grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and attending firework shows with family and friends. For many, the festivities are fun and exciting. But for some veterans, the festivities can bring upon feelings of anxiety. Fireworks that go off throughout the day and night can increase service members anxiety, sadness, and negative mood.
PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, such as military combat. For individuals with PTSD, sensory memories like sounds, smells, or gut feelings can be reminders of trauma from their past. Each person experiences PTSD in a different way. Some symptoms can include:
- Reliving the event through nightmares, flashbacks, or sensory memories that remind them of the traumatic event (hearing fireworks, for example).
- Avoiding things that remind them of the traumatic event. For example, they might avoid large crowds, driving a vehicle, or watching certain movies.
- Having more negative thoughts or feelings than before. For example, feeling guilty for not doing enough during the event, feeling numb and not interested in the things they used to be interested in, or thinking that the world is too dangerous to live in and no one can be trusted.
- Feeling on edge. This means they might have trouble sleeping and relaxing, they may get startled easily, or find it hard to concentrate.
These symptoms can interfere with everyday activities, work, and relationships. But symptoms can improve significantly with therapy. Therapists can help veterans identify negative thoughts and feelings, understand how they can cause stress, replace those thoughts, and cope with the upset and anxious feelings.
Talk to a veteran in your life. Let them know that getting help is not a sign of weakness. Encourage them to seek mental health services so they can live a healthier life.