Dear editor,

With extra time on my hands, I’ve decided to write some comments on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After serving two years in Vietnam and earning a master's degree in psychiatric social work, I spent 23 years providing therapy to combat veterans. During that time I successfully assisted hundreds of war veterans in learning to live with their combat memories and related PTSD symptoms.

The first step in dealing with PTSD is to identify the symptoms. The three main categories of PTSD symptoms are: re-experiencing the trauma (nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts); emotional numbing (isolation); and hypervigilance (sleep disturbance, irritability, poor concentration, exaggerated startle response).

Other symptoms frequently associated with PTSD are anxiety and depression. When dealing with anxiety it is important to look at things a person fears. The most common fear with combat veterans is the fear of oneself. They are afraid they will become aggressive and violent when pushed into a corner and faced with confrontation.

Clinical depression is often triggered by feelings of guilt. This can be guilt for things done or not done. Many combat veterans have unrealistic expectations for how they should perform in battle and thus have unwarranted guilt feelings. They believe they should have done more. They also feel guilty for surviving when others didn’t.

In treatment, marijuana may mask PTSD symptoms, but it does nothing to permanently resolve them. The same is true for therapy animals. Medication is also not a cure, but at least the dosage can be controlled. Even with medication, psychotherapy should be the focus of treatment.

These are just a few thoughts concerning PTSD. There is no quick fix. Often psychotherapy takes years but peace with one’s memories can be accomplished. Veterans can find help by calling the Lexington Vet Center at 859-253-0717.

Matt Shuy


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