The scars of war run deep. Healing is tough, and for some, the horror never ends. Veterans may leave the battlefield and return home to their loved ones, but the wrath of war rages on inside their minds and bodies. Psychologists call this crippling syndrome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD haunts the vet by day and by night – visions and nightmares of friends lost, enemies killed, horrors witnessed, atrocities sustained and dutifully committed, and the ongoing fear that serious injury or death lurks around every corner.
These warriors cry out for healing and release from unbearable pain. But sadly, due to the complexity of treating PTSD, many never fully recover. Western medicine and traditional psychology simply don’t have the tools.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is an irrational response to a rational situation. Simply put that means that a person’s system is producing a reactionthat is inconsistent with the external stimulus. For example, the noise of a dish being stacked in a cupboard may cause a reaction in an individual that activates the hyperawareness and fight flight mechanisms so useful in combat yet totally debilitating in a standard household environment and day to day life in society.
PTSD occurs when the past bubbles into and affects the present. A soldier who was in battle can flash back to the emotional content of the battle and re-experience it in the present moment years or even decades after the original experience, making the present seem as dangerous as the battleground of the past. Terror imprints in the brain and the nervous system in a way that is considered indelible. In response to stimulus that can be as simple as the noise of an overhead helicopter or the look in a stranger’s face, the terror of the past is re-awakened and the victim of the terror is paralyzed in the terror that really only exists in their memory.
Individuals trained to fight effectively in combat are taught to work through these physiological responses and continue the mission despite the internal events occurring. There are consequences to this practice. While it is necessary, the negative effects are cumulative and eventually show up as symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can manifest as physical, mental and emotional difficulties, and social dysfunction.
The most debilitating effect of PTSD is that the person loses trust in and doubting themselves and therefore shuts down many internal systems. What happens is that when the dish is put in the cupboard and the person cannot control their reaction, they learn to distrust themselves. Normally very strong and capable warriors are left to the mercy of reactions they do not understand and have no control over. When this scenario is repeated enough times, the person will no longer trust their responses which eventually leads to blanket distrust and doubt of the oneself.