Doctor warns of signs of post-traumatic stress disorder - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Doctor warns of signs of post-traumatic stress disorder

Burlington, Vermont - December 15, 2010

Back in the days of WWII it took troops weeks to get home from the war zone. Often times they were transported back by ship.  But for many soldiers today it can be just a matter of days between combat and their flights home. Doctors say that sometimes this quick transition can lead to some not-so-obvious wounds.

Many of the guard soldiers deployed in Afghanistan have gone a year without seeing their families. These last couple weeks have been filled with happy reunions. And for some the tough part is over.

But for others after the initial allure of being home wears off, settling back into civilian life can be an unexpected challenge.

"Well now is kind of a honeymoon period," said Barbara Purinton.

Purinton is both a mother of a solider and a member of the guard's family readiness program. She says having a loved one return from the war zone can be an adjustment for the whole family.

"For the people that were home, we've done everyone's job. The people who come home want to take over. And you're like what are you doing in my kitchen or wait a minute I've figured this out."

But mental health professionals say it is not uncommon for many soldiers to have a hard time figuring out how to fit back into their families.

"There's not much time for decompression and so they often find themselves rapidly back in what was once a familiar environment but really not in a place where they are able to feel normal," said Dr. Tom Simpatico

This sense of not belonging can be complicated by feelings of anxiety and hypervigilance commonly associated with a psychological trauma -- like war -- and is referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Studies show that as many as a third of guard members will struggle with emotional and mental issues upon returning home.

But there are warning signs for these invisible wounds.


-substance abuse
-aggressive behavior
-an inability to relax
-trouble sleeping/insomnia
-heightened startle response

Several resources are available throughout the state. But returning soldiers and their loved ones must recognize these warning signs and want to get help. Doctors say often times soldiers feel seeking treatment is a sign of weakness.

"And so they may be embarrassed or humiliated to seek services and as a result not seek services and still be at the mercy at these sort of symptoms can really get in the way of them leading a normal life," said Simpatico.

Doctors warn that signs of PTSD don't necessarily show up right away. In fact they can take months. Vets looking for help can turn to the VA's primary mental health clinic in White River Junction or the state's two veterans centers as well as several community based outpatient clinics.

Jennifer Reading - WCAX News

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