Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, is a type of anxiety disorder involving both physical and psychological symptoms. A life event can be defined as traumatic if the person is experiencing a real threat to his life or his physical safety. In addition, experiencing or hearing about a threat to the life or physical safety of another person can also be defined as a traumatic event.
PTSD in the IDF
During army service, soldiers are exposed to many stressful situations and dangers, the peak being exposure to a military operation or war. Exposure to stressful situations can also occur during training and routine activity. Many soldiers are injured during military service and continue to deal with physical disabilities and/or mental health issues for many years.
Traumatic events involving existential threat can cause serious and prolonged psychological reactions. The immediate reaction to a traumatic event is an acute stress response resulting from combat stress, which is defined as short-term (up to two days). However, when symptoms of psychological distress continue for over a month, a diagnosis of PTSD is reached. This disorder can last for many years, even when treated and be accompanied by acute psychological distress and significant disability.
Although combat stress is a risk factor for PTSD in the future, PTSD can also develop without the soldier having suffered from combat stress, and he or she may develop symptoms months or even years after the trauma (delayed or extended reaction).
In some cases, the symptoms and feelings may worsen or continue for months and even years. The affected person continues to repeatedly re-live what he experienced in the form of nightmares or flashbacks, he has difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and has feelings of loneliness and isolation. The symptoms may be prolonged and so severe that they significantly interfere with daily life and the ability to form relationships.
Substance abuse and PTSD
The biggest hurdle in treating these veterans is firstly in tracking down and identifying the demobilized soldiers suffering from PTSD. Many suffer in silence, ashamed or unaware of the cause of their suffering. Some victims turn to external stimuli and marginal behaviors as an escape or coping mechanism. Once victims are identified, they must be made aware that their symptoms are the result of PTSD and they must then wish to be helped and healed.
About 30% of those with symptoms of PTSD may develop dependencies or addictions as an emotional response to the distress they are experiencing. Most Israeli treatment centers caring for demobilized soldiers with PTSD do not specialize in the treatment of addiction and may not recognize the linkage.
Most people involved in a traumatic event experience a short period of emotional difficulty while coping and adapting to that situation. Over time and with support from those around them, and using various other coping techniques, the response to the event improves and the person recovers. Research indicates that seeking treatment as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may prevent the disorder from becoming chronic and significantly reduces the need to use artificial coping methods (such as sedatives, alcohol consumption and drug use).
Retorno can help
Retorno is offering a therapeutic program for demobilized soldiers with PTSD that will help them regain a healthy foothold in society while they are young and able to build a supportive social and professional future for themselves.
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