Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is potentially the most misunderstood mental health issue that exists in our society. Many do not know what it is, how it can be contracted, how it is diagnosed, or even whether it is really a condition or just a trick of the mind. But with the passing of the 4th of July, many veterans with PTSD will experience again the effects of their trauma.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be brought on by more than just combat situations. Often, victims of sexual or physical abuse can be diagnosed with PTSD, and experience similar symptoms as those who experienced a traumatic experience while in the military. PTSD is, essentially, a lasting condition that comes as a result of an experience where the person felt intense horror, fear, or helplessness. Oftentimes, when an individual experiences something traumatic, they will experience feelings of fear and anxiety, bad dreams, anger, and shock. This, however, does not qualify as PTSD.
In order to be diagnosed as PTSD, several criteria need to be met. First, the symptoms need to persist for over a month and they need to prevent the person from living as they did before the event. Normally, as a person recovers from a trauma, the symptoms slowly go away and eventually disappear, but in a person with PTSD, the symptoms continue and even get more potent as time goes on. From a combat situation, a person suffering from PTSD may be sent into a seemingly unreasonable state by things that remind them of the trauma. For example, the lights and sounds of fireworks exploding in the air above them.
Combat veterans across the nation find ways to deal with the effects that the many unexpected loud, sudden noises and flashes of light can have on them. Stories range from merely closing their eyes and taking a deep breath to getting a hotel room in a high-rise hotel for the whole week of the 4th of July. But regardless, the symptoms of PTSD associated with fireworks help those who may doubt the existence of such a condition understand the truth of it. PTSD is a diagnosable, often debilitating disease. PTSD can cause extreme paranoia, unreasonable anger, fear, an inability to sleep, and panic attacks.
The 4th of July isn’t the only occasion that can cause these sort of symptoms in service members suffering from PTSD; any holiday or celebration where loud, sudden noises may occur can cause anything from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. But as awareness and knowledge about PTSD increases, the methods of treatment advance and change to meet the needs of those seeking it. At the VA San Diego, they’ve been using Skype to videoconference with their patients.
While it is a bit different from face-to-face, the general consensus is that it is very effective and after a while the camera is forgotten and their doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about the session. In a country where the veterans are as widespread as can be, and there are only so many places to go to get treatment for PTSD, videoconferencing may be a much sought after solution for many veterans who aren’t able to travel to a VA clinic for help. In fact, in a study done to test the effectiveness of the videoconferencing, it showed that after 12 months, the groups that were meeting in person and those meeting over the internet were at the same level of recovery.
The videoconferencing does, however, lack some of the more intimate aspects of meeting with a therapist, from things as simple as a handshake to noticing specifics about body language and physical appearance. It can be difficult to tell if a patient looks “worse” one day. Then there is the foreseeable problems concerning reliability of internet connections and quality of webcams. Since most laptops come with built-in webcams these days, that is not usually a large barrier.
Success stories have already arisen from this new method of reaching out to veterans suffering from PTSD, and it is expected that while the face-to-face method of counseling will never go away, the usage of online video chat will continue to expand so that any veterans who are too far from a VA clinic to travel there for each appointment can still have access to treatment for PTSD and repair their lives.