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.

However, avoidance symptoms can actually prove quite detrimental to a soldier’s well-being, says Katharine Gammon, a LiveScience Magazine contributor. In fact, symptoms of alienation and reclusion that result from avoidance symptoms can potentially lead to serious health conditions, and even death.

Gammon says that the body responds in a series of negative physical reactions in response to prolonged periods of loneliness. John Cappio, a social psychologist from the University of Chicago (also Gammon’s central source), found that “loneliness is tied to hardening of the arteries…, inflammation in the body, and even problems with learning and memory”. What’s worse, increased levels of isolation also lead to heightened levels of stress, which for veterans suffering from stress disorder such as PTSD, can prove absolutely debilitating.

But why does loneliness cause raised stress levels? Well perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a lonely individual must face every daily task by his or herself, and therefore tends to generate more and more levels of responsibility. Without having someone else to help be accountable for certain tasks, a lonely person might quickly become overwhelmed, which leads to higher dosages of the stress hormone cortisol to be distributed from the brain throughout the body.

Not only that, but Cappio also says that lonely individuals experience repeated nights of broken sleep. Sleep is important for the mind to relieve stress and help a person remain feelings focused and rejuvenated and ready to face each day. Without sleep, people can quickly become ill-tempered, impatient, and gloomy—emotions that further drive a person away from interacting with others and thus worsening their condition.

Veterans who suspect that their feelings of alienation and isolation are reaching this types of dangerous physical levels should seriously considered seeking professional psychological help before it is too late.

However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through 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. 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.