Today, both civilians and military personnel alike are more aware of the existence of a potentially serious mental illness known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

Normally, PTSD is developed after an individual either witnesses or undergoes a traumatic event. However, PTSD usually refers to a single traumatic incident, such as a car accident or a similar and unforeseen trauma. However, the medical community has developed a clinical term for those who are repeatedly involved in a traumatic incidents, such as combat soldiers who currently serve on the battlefield. For them, every day has the possibility for a traumatic event to occur, such as personal injury, devastating explosions and other damages, and even the deaths of fellow comrades or innocent civilians. Cases that involve repeated incidents of trauma are called “Complex-PTSD,” where the symptoms are much more acute and severe than regular PTSD. In short, a person suffering from Complex-PTSD accrues more emotional and mental trauma because his or her brain is not granted a prolonged period of recovery time between each traumatic incident.

A study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at UPenn describes Complex-PTSD as having symptoms that include “severe behavioral difficulties,” “difficulty controlling intense emotions,” and “significant mental difficulties”. These definitions are further broken down to describe cases of alcoholism or substance abuse, sudden episodes of rage or violence, and amnesia or “dissociative symptoms”.

These intense symptoms definitely do not make a soldier’s lifestyle any easier, especially when they return from combat. In the civilian world, combat veterans often find themselves experiencing frequent episodes of alienation and anxiety since many things may have changed since their deployment. Family dynamics, their physical environment, and their job outlooks are all subject to change once soldiers return home from combat, and for soldiers who express symptoms of Complex-PTSD, their uncontrolled behaviorisms make it even more difficult for them to re-acclimate into their new lifestyles.

Fortunately, although Complex-PTSD has more acute symptoms than general PTSD, the treatment methods for both are still the same. Combat veterans suffering from Complex-PTSD should consider seeking treatment through talk therapy and possible psychiatric medication.
However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.