Living with PTSD and War Experience: What It Is and What to Do

Article | May 2019

Living with PTSD and War Experience: What It Is and What to Do

For some, the stressors that come with military deployment do not end when they return home. Living through life-threatening situations or being exposed to death or serious injuries is not easy to leave behind. Many people continue to relive the event(s) in flashbacks, nightmares, and recurring thoughts and images. They may feel anxious and isolated from others.

In most cases, these are normal reactions to abnormal events. They fade with time. But, if reactions are severe and last for more than a month, it’s important to meet with a medical professional to assess for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health term used to describe a specific set of symptoms that can develop when a person has lived through a traumatic event(s). PTSD symptoms can be physical and emotional.

Common PTSD Symptoms

A person living with PTSD may keep experiencing the trauma over and over. This might be through nightmares, unwanted thoughts, or memories of what happened. They may have intense emotional distress when reminded of the event(s). A person dealing with PTSD may feel “on edge” and “jumpy,” as if something bad could happen at any moment. An individual may try to avoid thoughts, emotions, sounds, smells, or locations that could be reminders of stressful events. Personal relationships can suffer if the person shuts down emotions to avoid the stress of difficult feelings. PTSD sufferers can have trouble sleeping and staying focused. It is important for a person who has these symptoms to know that they are not “crazy.” A person feeling this way is not weak or defective. Anyone can develop PTSD after a traumatic experience.

PTSD Support

If someone is diagnosed with PTSD, it is difficult to know how long the symptoms will last. Getting support is important. Along with mental health treatment, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder recommends learning about PTSD. Talking with other military veterans in a group setting can be a key way to get support.

Physical health and wellness are also important. Take care to make sure basic needs, such as eating properly and getting enough rest, are being met. Finding ways to reduce stress is also valuable. This could be learning relaxation techniques, exercising, or making time for fun and creative activities.

Those dealing with PTSD symptoms should be careful to avoid “quick fixes” that can mask issues.

Withdrawing from other people or abusing drugs or alcohol may seem like a way to cope. But PTSD is something you go through, not around. Using drugs and alcohol and cutting oneself off from others can make it hard to work through PTSD.

You don’t have to do it alone. If you or someone you know may be experiencing PTSD, you can call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or primary care doctor to get help.

Army doctor talking with patient

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care professional can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health coverage, you can call the customer service or the behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care identification card.