Combat trauma is a type of trauma experienced by people who have served in the military and/or law enforcement. Combat trauma can happen to anyone in combat, from those that have experienced a live fire to those who are support workers in a war zone area. Not everyone in combat experiences combat trauma, but many do.
Combat trauma can have severe consequences that can affect someone’s life forever. For example, a veteran may spend more than one tour in a combat zone and then one event, such as the death of a battle buddy, will trigger symptoms identified in Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD). A first responder with many years of experience might encounter violent and tragic situations every day until one event proves too much to deal with.
Symptoms of Combat Trauma
Symptoms of Combat Trauma generally fall into three main categories: hyperarousal, intrusive, and avoidant.
Hyperarousal behaviors include increased physical or emotional arousal that includes difficulty sleeping, irritability, difficulty thinking clearly, and panic attacks. Intrusive behaviors include distressing recollections, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and general fear. Avoidant behaviors include extensive and active avoidance of activities, feelings, memories, places, thoughts, people, or conversations related to or that are a reminder of combat experiences. This can also show up in the form of loss of interest, feeling detached from others, restricting emotions, trouble remembering, shutting down, and numbness.
Additionally, many of these behaviors are “triggered” by a variety of different things.
What are Triggers?
Triggers are events or situations that produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychological symptoms such as anxiety, panic, and hopelessness. Triggers can take many forms. They may be a physical location or the anniversary of the traumatic event. A person could also be triggered by internal processes such as stress.
Sometimes triggers can be predictable. For example, a veteran, someone with combat trauma, may have flashbacks while watching a violent movie. In other cases, triggers are less obvious. For instance, a person who smelled incense during a sexual assault may have a panic attack when they smell the same incense in a store. Not everyone is affected by the same trigger.
Trauma is defined as an emotional and psychological response to an event or experience that is deeply troubling or distressing, such as the experiences of combat.
Everyone reacts to trauma in different ways and can experience a wide range of both physical and emotional emotions. There is no correct way of responding to trauma. Some of the most common symptoms of trauma include:
- Emotional and psychological symptoms: shock, denial, disbelief, confusion, difficulty concentrating, anger, irritability, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, self-blame, detachment, isolation, sadness, and feelings of helplessness.
- Physical symptoms: difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, fatigue, easily startled, increased heart rate, edginess, agitation, muscle tension, aches, and general pains.
Trauma can lead to mental disorders, such as Post-traumatic stress (PTSD), that require treatment to relieve the associated symptoms.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience, such as combat trauma. While not everyone who experiences combat trauma suffers from PTSD, those who do are by no means weak; PTSD is not a sign of weakness.
PTSD can be grouped into four categories, including:
- Reliving. People with PTSD will relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories that remind them of their trauma, which can result in feelings of detachment and isolation from people they were once close with, as well as a loss of interest in activities that they used to draw joy from.
- Avoiding. Those suffering from PTSD tend to avoid people, memories and thoughts as well as situations, and places that remind them of their trauma.
- Increased arousal. Some of the most common symptoms of increased arousal include excessive emotions, difficulty relating to others, such as feeling or showing affection, insomnia, irritability, easily angered or annoyed, decrease in ability to concentrate and easily startled. Additionally, there are some physical symptoms that would fall into this category such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, muscle tension, rapid breathing, nausea, and diarrhea.
- Negative thoughts and mood. This would include thoughts and feelings related to estrangement, blame, and other negative behaviors.
PTSD, when left untreated, can lead to a variety of serious symptoms. For example, for some people, the moments of recurring stress and anxiety lead to outbursts of anger and rage. This can result in child or spousal abuse or even public violence. Finally, serious depression is always a risk with PTSD. Moreover, since PTSD can potentially make a person unpleasant to be around and is often undiagnosed, individuals with PTSD may end up isolated and alone. People may demonstrate symptoms of depression such as suicidal thoughts or actions while in the midst of a PTSD episode.
According to the Veterans Administration, experts estimate that up to 20 % of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, up to 10 % of Gulf War veterans, and up to 30 % of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD.
Individuals who experience these symptoms, such as those with combat trauma, would benefit greatly from professional guidance if they find themselves unable to gain control of their lives, or if they continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms for more than a month.
Early Intervention and Treatment is Important
Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone with combat trauma. Uncharacteristic behaviors become increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful. The traumatic events these heroes experience will affect them for the rest of their lives. Therefore, it is important for them to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent their lives from being affected forever.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and similar mental health diagnoses. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages of ART is the speed at which it is able to bring relief. Generally, one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing a person from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on anyone suffering from trauma, regardless of the type of trauma experienced. Trauma, at the end of the day, is still trauma.
ART, for this reason, is an excellent way to treat combat trauma and the symptoms associated with it. Since ART can reprogram traumatic memories, this therapy will take the unpleasant, traumatic memories from combat and reprogram them in such a way that they do not result in negative reactions.
Regardless of how bad things may be, there is hope, and there is always someone available to help you through difficult times. Do not let combat trauma take control of your life. Contact ART International to learn more or to find an ART therapist near you.