In order to bring greater awareness to the issue of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the United States Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. In addition, June has been designated as PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD).
PTSD is a mental health condition that can occur after someone has been exposed to a single traumatic event or multiple traumatic events, such as sexual or physical assault, natural or man-made disaster, and war-related combat stress. Symptoms of PTSD include persistent intrusive thoughts and distressing dreams about the traumatic event, triggered emotional responses to reminders of the trauma, efforts to avoid thinking or talking about the trauma, and persistent hypervigilance for cues that indicate additional danger or trauma re-occurring.
It is a serious obstacle to fully enjoying life and those who suffer often feel haunted by the past. Many who endure this condition do so in silence for there is still a social stigma and pressure to "just get over it."
Dogs who have been horrifically abused and military animals also can be victims of PTSD. Sudden noises, or specific types of movement nearby, or deep sleep can trigger episodes of fear, panic, seizures or aggressive reaction.
Mental health and veterinary experts are not sure why some develop PTSD and others do not. However, if stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, seeking help to determine if PTSD is a factor is important. The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments. We can all help those affected by PTSD.
In recent years, researchers from around the world have dramatically increased our understanding of what causes PTSD and how to treat it. Hundreds of thousands of Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have gotten treatment for PTSD—and treatment works. But this is not just a disease that affects Vets. People from every walk of life...dogs used in competitive fighting...even children can be affected.
It has been estimated that about 5% of the 650 million military dogs being used today suffer from PTSD. Dogs are considered the most effective means of detected hidden explosive devices and so are extensively used by the US military. It is easy to see why military combat or bomb detection dogs, as well as search and rescue canines who have to find bodies after disasters, might be subject to this syndrome. However, civilian dogs can also fall victim to PTSD in a number of circumstances. If a dog is abandoned to live in the wild, has been through a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or is abused or has lost his caretaker, he could develop PTSD. Unfortunately, many rescue dogs could fall into this category.
Two types of treatment have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD: counseling and medication. Professional therapy or counseling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. There are several specific types of counseling that research has shown to be effective for treating PTSD. Medications, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can be used to help you feel less worried or sad.
In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma—and change how you react to stressful memories.
You may need to work with your doctor or counselor and try different types of treatment before finding the one that’s best for dealing with your PTSD symptoms.
Explore these resources for more information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder...know you are not alone and that help is available...
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
Understanding PTSD Booklet
This eight-page booklet explains what PTSD is, provides information and resources on support, and shares real stories from people who have dealt effectively with PTSD.
National Center for PTSD
Explore this comprehensive website for detailed information about PTSD, its effects and treatment, and resources for support.
VA’s PTSD Program Locator
This site will allow you to search for PTSD programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s PTSD treatment programs.
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University