Desert Storm Veterans & the Symptoms of PTSD
According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, over 670,000 men and women served in the Persian Gulf War. Though numbers of veteran’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are difficult to determine, VA estimates that more than 18 months after returning from Desert Storm, approximately 8% of veteran’s suffered some symptoms of post traumatic stress.
To diagnose a veteran’s problems as PTSD, there must be documented evidence of a stressor that could have triggered the response. Stressors include direct involvement in an event that caused or threatened to cause serious injury or death to the veteran or to another person. Combat generally fits the bill and is the main source of PTSD symptoms. Your response to the event must be one of utter disbelief, fear, helplessness or horror to trigger the symptoms that classify PTSD.
Desert Storm veterans, who had traumatic experiences in the Gulf War, may find themselves reliving those experiences once they arrive home. This re-experiencing can take many forms, though the most common is to relive the event in your dreams, which quickly become nightmares. The nightmares can be so realistic that they prevent you from living a normal life. They can disrupt or destroy family relationships. A less frequent though more sinister effect is a dissociative state in which you are reliving the event, while you are awake. This can last from a few seconds to several hours and is usually precipitated by something that reminds you of the event, such as fireworks or a car backfiring. Sometimes even smells can trigger these states, if the smell is directly related to the traumatic event. Other related symptoms include difficulty falling and staying asleep, irritability, and angry outbursts.
Frequently veterans who suffer from PTSD will go to great lengths to avoid situations or people that will remind them of the event that precipitated the traumatic response. This could include avoiding merely thoughts of the event, to avoiding any activities or surroundings that may remind you of the stressor. For example if you had friends that were blown up when entering a booby-trapped bakery, you may avoid bakeries. The the smell of baked goods, doors that resemble that of the store you entered, pedestrian traffic patterns that, at the time were insignificant, but in your hypervigilant retrospection, should have been an alert all will warn you against it. Included in avoidance is withdrawal of feelings and deep emotions for others, the perception that you are on the outside of your life, looking in, or the feeling that you will never have a "normal" life or a future.