I wanted to take this opportunity to say Thank You to all of our brave men and women who have given so much to ensure that we are all able to live in a country where seeking help is possible and accessing help is only a click away. When I think about all of the luxuries that we take for granted in America, I feel that it is necessary for me to write this post just to voice my gratitude and to bring awareness to the issue of PTSD in our returning troops. They have sacrificed so much and continue to do so every day. For many of them the sacrifice does not end when their tour is over. Many of them will carry the traumatic experiences that they have encountered during their service with them for many years to come.
We are beginning to have a better understanding of the effects of trauma on the human brain, as well as the effects of trauma on the human brain during critical periods of development. It is important to remember that the human brain is not fully developed until our mid to late 20s. Many of these soldiers are enlisting out of high school and spending their final years of brain development in battle. In these young adult years, the part of the brain that is still developing is the Frontal Lobe. The Frontal Lobe is the area of the brain that governs our capacity for self-control, emotion regulation and judgement. Coincidentally, one of the primary areas of the brain affected by psychological trauma is the very Frontal Lobe that is essential in moderating self-control, emotion regulation and judgement.
For many of these soldiers, coming back home and trying to reintegrate into “normal” human life is quite difficult. The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating. Here is a very general description of what PTSD might look like:
• The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced, they avoid trauma related stimuli and stimuli that could potentially be perceived as trauma related, they have negative thoughts or feelings that look a lot like depressive symptoms (negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself, exaggerated blame of oneself or others, negative affect, decreased interest in activities, isolation, difficulty experiencing positive affect) and trauma related arousal and reactivity that can look a lot like mood or anxiety symptoms (irritability or aggression, risky or destructive behavior, hypervigilance, heightened startle reaction, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping).
All of these brave men and women deserve our gratitude and a growing segment of them need our help. So, on Memorial Day and every day going forward, please be thankful, but also remember that as helpers we can do our duty by helping those that have sacrificed so much.
Thank you to all of the brave men and women of our armed forces for your service.