PTSD on the Stage – Who Are These ‘Broken’ Soldiers

Our Boys play brief war hospital psycho drama requires top-notch acting, which prevents it from farce. It as well demands familiarity with PTSD from the audience. Meeting these demands would mean that the play succeeds in its purpose of presentation of the tender and visceral bravery of the wounded soldier ‘boys.’

So, in familiarizing ourselves with PTSD, what is it? PTSD is an abbreviation which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a psychiatric disorder which occurs in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, for example, a terrorist act, serious accident, natural disaster, rape, combat/war, or any other violent personal assault.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms have been grouped into five different clusters. One or more symptoms are at least required from each of these clusters if a patient has to receive a full diagnosis. The categories are listed as;

  1. Stressor

This is where a person was exposed to severe illness, threatened or actual injury, or violence which was life-threatening; this includes at least one of the following:

  • Exposure to trauma as a first responder, e.g., a firefighter, police, firefighter, crisis counselor or  medic
  • Direct trauma exposure
  • Learning that someone close experienced the shock
  • Witnessing a trauma
  • Avoidance

One symptom is required from this category; this is where one tries avoiding all reminders of the trauma. These include preventing trauma-related emotions or thoughts, avoiding external reminders of the tragic event, sometimes through the use of alcohol or drugs.

  • Unpleasant Changes to Thoughts or Moods

Here, one blames themselves or others for the trauma. At least two of the symptoms in this category are required for diagnosis;

  • Negative feelings about oneself and the world in general
  • Failure to remember the shock clearly
  • Loss of interest in things they once found enjoyable
  • Difficulty feeling positive
  • Isolation feelings
  • Intrusion Symptoms

Someone who was once exposed to trauma later on re-experiences the shock in one or more ways of the ways; nightmares, flashbacks, physical reactions or distress after remembering the tragic events (triggers), intense memories and distressing.

  • Changes in Reactivity

One becomes more easily startled, reacting to frightful happenings more fully. In this category, at least two of these symptoms should be notable; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, irritability or aggression, engaging in the risky or destructive behavior, hyper-awareness and hypervigilance, concentration difficulties and heightened startle response.

Why We Should Talk About This Problem and Try to Understand Such People

A lot of people are unaware that untreated post-traumatic stress disorder has a devastating effect for both the person with the condition and their loved ones. It affects relationships with family, friends and other people. It can also trigger severe emotional problems, causing health problems over time.

The disorder affects people of any age, and can even impact the unborn babies’ health where the mother is under constant stress. It is therefore essential to talk about PTSD since it forms the basis by which such complications are avoided.

Getting timely support and help may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD; this means the person affected should turn to family and friends who will offer comfort after listening.

It also means seeking the help of a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Other people find it helpful in turning to their faith or religious community. Supporting people with PTSD will help prevent them from turning to unhealthy coping methods, which may include misuse of drugs or alcohol.

How to treat these soldiers

Besides listening, comforting and being there for soldiers or anyone who has PTSD, there are various treatments for PTSD. The following tips should guide us on how to treat people having PTSD;

  1. Help them seek professional treatment which can range from Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or counseling, medications such as antidepressants, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
  2. Anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers which include certain sights, sounds, or smells. When you are aware of what causes an upsetting reaction, you will be in a better position helping your loved one to calm down.
  3. Do not pressure your loved one into talking. It is normal for many veterans with PTSD to find it difficult to talk about their experiences. Do not try to force them to open up. Letting them know that you are there for them if they want to talk works better. It is your understanding which provides comfort, not anything you say.
  4. Not taking the symptoms of PTSD personally; Whenever a loved one seems angry, irritable, distant, or closed off, this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
  5. Be understanding and patient. Getting better for the patients takes time so be patient with the pace of recovery.

In a nutshell, persons who have PTSD can overcome it through therapy and support from people close to them. In case you need more information on PTSD you can read this essay about stress causes and effects.

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