Dear Let’s Talk About It,
My twin brother, John, is in the Army and has served a1year tour in Iraq and just returned 6 months ago from a year long tour in Afghanistan. When he got back from
he bounced back to himself quickly but this time he is having problems. He lives in the apartment over mine and I hear him walking around all night, he has gotten into 2 car accidents and is often angry and jumpy for no reason. Last weekend he drank a case of beer in 1 night, alone in his apartment. It isn’t getting better it is only getting worse. John is the one all the other soldiers call when they are having problems but won’t get help for himself. When I tell him I am worried he says he can handle it and doesn’t want to talk about it because it only makes it worse. My parents say to leave him alone but I am concerned he is in over his head. What should I do?A. Iraq
War and/or exposure to combat can be traumatic and take a serious toll on a person’s mental health. According to the National Center for PTSD, Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), are the longest combat operations since Vietnam, meaning that military personnel often spend long or multiple tours in a combat situation. They are at a high risk for death/injury, seeing the death or injury of others and need to be on high alert at all times. Often times when veterans/active duty members return home from war, they take a while to readjust. While in combat they needed to be extremely alert and aware of every detail in their surroundings. However, when they return that asset needed in war does not translate or is no longer needed at home. This can leave returning soldiers to act “jumpy” or “on “edge.” When symptoms like your brother’s persist, it may mean something more. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can form after a person experiences a traumatic event. A traumatic event is defined as an event that is perceived as life-threatening, involving fear and possible a sense of no control over the situation and persists for more than a month. Although some have a delayed reaction to PTSD and it may form 6 months down the road. Either way, PTSD may enhance issues such as; alcohol/drug abuse, problems with relationships or at work, feelings of hopelessness and depression as well as physical ailments. Some symptoms may include:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts.
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
As a loved one concerned for your brother the VA suggests;
1.) Learn as much as you can about PTSD to understand better what your brother is experiencing and what sort of options may help him.
2.) Offer to go to doctor visits with him or encourage him to talk to his doctor about what he may be experiencing post-combat.
3.) Let him know that you are there if he wants to talk but that it’s okay too if he doesn’t want to talk.
4.) Encourage him to contact friends, family and/or his military buddies to help provide love and support. If he does not have a lot of social outlets, he may consider joining a group for veterans.
5.) Lastly, invite him out for some physical activity as that may help him process the stress hormones and sweat them out.