The American military provides the finest training and has the most sophisticated weapons in the world, and the men and women who serve in our armed forces know that personal sacrifice is inherent in the job of service to country. Sometimes the sacrifice is exposure to trauma that affects emotional and/or physical health. Sometimes the sacrifice is life itself. Spouses and families of military personnel also make huge sacrifices and suffer "collateral damage" when their loved one is suffering from the effects of war trauma, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It takes uncommon courage to face an enemy in combat. It also takes uncommon courage to look your own pain in the eye and not deny it, repress it, run from it, or attempt to anesthetize it. If you’re a veteran who is drinking, smoking, overeating or using drugs etc. it’s because you’re home from the war, but part of your psyche is still stuck there. Addictions are anesthesia for pain, and if you have PTSD, you have painful unhealed trauma on your internal "hard drive," your brain. You’re not alone. There are thousands of men and women like you.

The macho military culture slaps a "weakness" stigma on PTSD out of ignorance of basic brain physiology. The scientific fact is that PTSD is a trauma-induced brain malfunction that no amount of training, dedication, denial, repression, or willpower can override. One cannot think their way out of PTSD. It is not a psychiatric disorder. It is a conditioned body response causing brain chemistry to go awry, keeping us stuck in a stress response, and we can correct the problem. The military doesn’t stigmatize a person if they get wounded or need surgery, and PTSD is no different.

Thanks to the thousands of Vietnam vets suffering from the devastating consequences of combat trauma, PTSD became a diagnosable condition in 1980. Formerly, the military referred to combat trauma as shell shock or battle fatigue. However, PTSD is not limited to combat veterans. Crime victims, people who witnessed an event such as the World Trade Center attacks, and even abused children can have it too.

What Is Trauma?

PTSD is not new. Evidence of PTSD has been around for centuries, going back to the time of the Greek Poet Homer’s Iliad and PTSD does not heal with time if not properly treated. In fact, PTSD can sit dormant for years, like a ticking time bomb waiting for the proper combination of events to trigger symptoms. Additionally, people living with someone who has PTSD and health care workers who are constantly exposed to the trauma in some way can develop PTSD.

To understand PTSD, one must first have a working understanding and definition of trauma. Trauma is any event or series of repetitive events that threatens our sense of safety and core

values about what is right. The event is intensely stressful and there is a real or perceived threat of loss of life, often accompanied by shock. Traumatic events can be man-made or natural. Witnessing an event can be just as traumatizing as being a victim. When we think about a past traumatic event it may cause us to feel fear, anger, grief, rejection, guilt, sadness, regret, shame, heartache, etc. The experience is as real as if it happened yesterday. Survivors do not realize they have survived and there is a loss of sense of purpose.

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