Millions of Americans every year find themselves plagued by a variety of anxiety disorders that potentially affect every facet of their daily lives. Some of these anxiety disorders surround specific incidents in life, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves anxiety after an individual undergoes a traumatic experience. On the other hand, other anxiety disorders can be more general, so that an individual expresses unexplained anxiety regarding practically every aspect of their daily living. Such is the case with those 6.8 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But what are the symptoms of this disorder, and how do they impact the lives of those who are afflicted? Further, how does the disorder relate to combat veterans?

According to the ADAA, the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are all-encompassing, even while they are asleep. Insomnia is one of the main symptoms of GAD, which comes as no surprise since people who are constantly worrying find it difficult to actually “turn off” their brains enough for them to fall asleep. Other symptoms of GAD include “edginess,” “fatigue,” and “irritability”. In extreme cases of anxiety, psychological symptoms can eventually manifest into physical ailments, such as stomach ulcers and “gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea”.
Due to the more general nature of these symptoms, academics, work, finances, social situations, physical looks—really anything can serve as triggers. Plus, if these symptoms are not put under control, sufferers can find themselves in financial trouble, unwanted social situations, or even at the doctor’s office for digestive ailments.

GAD can be officially diagnosed after an individual has expressed unnecessary and excessive worry about almost everything for six months or more. Unfortunately, GAD can be triggered by other disorders, such as PTSD. Many veterans who suffer from PTSD can also develop GAD.
The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. 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.

So what kind of treatment methods exist for people who suffer from GAD or even PTSD? The ADAA says that anxiety disorders can be universally treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques (such as yoga and meditation), and even psychiatric medication. However, veterans suffering from these disorders should be wary of seeking such therapy from the VA, since reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. Therefore, ailing veterans might want to consider consulting non-associated medical facilities 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.