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Old 02-21-2004, 08:14 PM
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A short course on PTSD

I am posting the "Short Course On PTSD"
Written by Chuck Dean and excerpted from his book,
"NAMVET: Making Peace with your Past"
You can access the entire book at www.namvetbook.com

I will break it up into several posts.....
Dana
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Old 02-21-2004, 08:15 PM
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Page One-

A Short Course on Managing PTSD
by Chuck Dean, Author Nam Vet: Making Peace with Your Past

Personal Life Focus –

Statistics say that every veteran’s war experiences significantly influence and affect other people after the war. At least a minimum of five other people will be impacted by what happened to each veteran who has experienced war. The potential negative impression upon this nation is staggering.
Education about war-related stress first for the veteran, and then others in his sphere of influence is a good starting point. However, it is not sufficient to just convey a theory to veterans about it. It is more important to offer positive tools to help them manage the symptoms of PTSD.
This short course is designed to focus on both theory and practical, and is divided into two sections: (1) Recognition of the problem, and (2) Management of the problem. When you learn to find the roots of a problem, then you can deal with the problem itself.
Understanding what perpetuates the troubles stemming from PTSD works this way. Imagine owning a car and not being mechanically inclined. One day it stalls in a busy intersection, and so you push it off to the side of the street. You open the hood because someone told you that’s where you look when the engine dies. You stare dumbfounded at all that stuff under there and don’t know where to begin checking for the source of your problem.
How we deal with our experiences from Vietnam and afterward is much like that. Few of us are clinicians who have studied and/or treated emotional problems. Instead, we begin to short-circuit in certain areas of life, becoming anxious, depressed, seemingly out of control. Then someone says, “Look under the hood,” and for the first time in our lives we admit to ourselves there may have been something from our experiences in Southeast Asia that is still causing problems in our lives.
So we “lift the hood”— that is, we begin to read or inquire about PTSD and the aftereffects of war. We are suddenly confronted with this gigantic thing called post-traumatic stress disorder, and we have absolutely no idea where to begin in dealing with it. As we read the VA pamphlets describing the symptoms of PTSD we may think to ourselves, “I have them all”. After that we may grow a bit apathetic because the problem seems overwhelming. In order to prevent being buried in all the psychological rhetoric, we who have no background in that field of study should approach the way we connect with our past a few steps at a time. We need to be practical and lean to “blue-collar” methods of understanding and managing it. In other words, we don’t have to get a full clinical education on what is wrong with us. We just need to know what it is and begin to bring it under control as best we can.
So, back to “under the hood”. Suppose you are standing there looking under your hood, scratching your head, and a friend comes by who has a little more knowledge about cars than you do. He says, “There are some key things you should always look for when there is a problem under the hood. Ask yourself, ‘is it getting any gas? ‘is it electrical…is it getting any juice?’”
This is the same way we begin to view PTSD. We narrow down and focus on the list of symptoms that seem to pertain more to us as individuals. Take one symptom at a time and become familiar with it. By looking at the major symptoms and how they make us react to life we can then begin to identify ourselves with them. When we can admit to ourselves (and perhaps others) that it is true—that we are exhibiting some of these symptoms—we have taken the first step in becoming our own troubleshooters in managing PTSD in our lives.
War-related stress covers an expansive area in our lives. Just as we “looked under the hood”, and our knowledgeable friend advised us to check out a few basic areas to locate the sources of trouble, we must examine the basic symptoms of PTSD. After we’ve had our look, we need to honestly identify ourselves with those symptoms and that is where we start.
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Old 02-21-2004, 08:17 PM
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page 2

Recognizing the Problem

War affects our lives like no other phenomena. Experiencing it generates a sense of anxiety and fear that can destroy our peace of mind, and break our ability to concentrate. It is not uncommon to have our thoughts intruded upon by memories and flashbacks. Post-traumatic stress may continually cause small problems to become huge issues on a daily basis.
In short, war creates a tremendous amount of stress on everyone involved. If this stress goes unrecognized and unmanaged, it can severely damage a person’s mental and physical health. It can build to a point that makes it impossible to mentally cope with everyday problems or to resist stress-related physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease.
If you recognize and handle stress properly, however, it can be shaped into something healthy and even useful in getting you through the challenges of each day — and the trauma of war.

What is Stress?

Critical incident stress (CIS) is the negative stress that a person first encounters when trauma happens. Left unaddressed and unmanaged over time it then evolves into post-traumatic stress. Post-trauma stress does not disappear with time…it does not evaporate on its own. Left alone and stuffed inside only makes the symptoms more severe.
Stress is a unique and personal response from our bodies and minds to meet the demands that different situations give to us. We usually react to future stressful circumstances with an instinctive “fight or flight” response. Neither which are conducive to maintaining proper social conduct. Which is one primary reason some veterans isolate away from others, or seem “flighty”. And sadly it is the reason many are in trouble with the law for physical crimes of abuse or assault.
This “fight or flight” response is a survival mechanism built into man from the beginning of time. This survival response increases blood flow to muscles, heart rate, respiratory, and blood pressure. When this response kicks in our mental alertness is heightened and we focus our attention and intellect on the matters at hand.
Originally, these reactions helped people prepare for a physical conflict, or an escape from one. Now, they usually serve to direct our mental and physical resources to a particularly difficult and trying situation, and the result is often positive. Sometimes, though, these situations last longer than our ability to cope with them (such as a year surviving in a combat zone). When this happens, we experience feelings of distress, or negative stress. If this negative stress is left unmanaged, the risk for stress related health problems, interpersonal conflicts, poor job performance and even domestic violence becomes more likely.

How Do I Know if I’m Experiencing Negative Stress?

In most cases there are warning signs that indicate a need for active stress management. These include:

• persistent fatigue
• inability to concentrate
• flashes of anger—lashing out at friends and family
• changes in eating and sleeping habits
• increased use of alcohol, tobacco, etc.
• prolonged tension headaches, stomach problems, etc.
• prolonged depression, anxiety or helplessness
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Old 02-21-2004, 08:19 PM
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Page 3

How Do I Manage Stress?

Everyone seems to find different ways to cope with stress. Some strategies you can try to help manage the negative stress in your life are:

Talk it out. You’re not in this alone. Your family, friends and associates are feeling some of the same anxieties you’re experiencing because they close and care about you. Tell them what you’re feeling, and listen to what they say. Find a veteran buddy and talk it out with them. (This is especially good because of the identity factor).

Physical Activity. Release the tension of stress by developing a regular routine of exercise. It doesn’t take much either…walking around the block each evening, playing tennis, working in the garden or going through some stretching exercises in your living goes a long way in helping.

Know Your Limits — And Make Time For Relaxation. Sometimes exercise or talking about your feelings only work for a little while before something reminds you of the war, or traumatic experience, creating anxiety all over again.


It’s important to remember that events in the past are beyond your control. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about things you can’t change. A good way to do this is to cut down or eliminate the activities that cause stress for you. Spend that time in other ways, such as finding something enjoyable and relaxing.


Take Control. Step out and help someone else. When you can focus on helping someone else your problems diminish and dissipate. Help organize a support group to help others come together to identify and relate to one another in a positive way.

Avoid Self-Medication. Drugs and alcohol may seem to remove stress temporarily, but in the long run they generally create problems of behavior that compounds the stress you were feeling initially. Even caffeine and nicotine can have negative effect on your ability to control the sources of anxiety in your life.
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Old 02-21-2004, 08:21 PM
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Last notes on PTSD from Chuck Dean

Quick Reference

Things to remember:

—Stress is a normal reaction to the traumatic events in your past.

—Negative stress can damage physical and mental health if not recognized and managed.

Things to do:

Talk it out.
Try physical exercise.
Know your limits
Take control.
Avoid self-medication.
Find a support group.







Spiritual Healing – The Ultimate Solution

PTSD impacts a person’s spiritual perception more than any other part of the human framework. The approach to spiritual healing, therefore, has to utilize spiritual methods, and it is a two-pronged process: Confession of being traumatized and any personal guilt, and then applying God’s principles of truth to the experience(s). Like physical wounds, psychological and emotional wounds must be cleansed before they can heal. Veterans can begin to clean these old wounds by confession. (“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” James 5:16.) This is even more reason to talk it out. Confessing pain, guilt, weakness, sorrow, hurt, terror and remorse is an important ingredient to spiritual healing.
God did not go AWOL in Vietnam or during any other time of traumatization. Finding a new life by surrendering every physical and emotional burden to the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepting His gift of salvation, is the single-most important feature of attaining wholeness through spiritual healing. (“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” Rom 10:9-10.)

Twelve Spiritual Steps For Survivors of War Trauma

1. I acknowledge the presence of God who gives me the power to live.
2. I recognize that my life has lost meaning because of stress, and I seek to find purpose in my surviving when others didn’t by opening my mind and heart to God so He can show me that purpose.
3. I seek to find and develop trust in others through the guidance of the Lord.
4. I accept the positive traits in myself, and, with the Lord’s help, seek to change the negative ones.
5. I trust God to help me bring my anger under control.
6. I seek God to show me how to relinquish my “walls” that isolate me from others.
7. I face my guilt and secrets and ask for forgiveness with the Lord’s help.
8. I trust God to sustain me when I am grieving and ask Him to permit my tears of healing to flow.
9. I seek to cease self-destructive ideals and replace them with a commitment to life, as God desires.
10. I cease to hate those who have hated me and hurt me. I will endeavor to love like Jesus loves at all costs.
11. I seek to discover who I am as a spiritual being, and who I am in a personal relationship with my Lord, Jesus Christ.
12. I commit myself to acknowledge those whose love I have taken for granted, to help those who have suffered as I have suffered, and to seek God’s strength to love those I have not been able to love.
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Old 06-16-2004, 02:34 PM
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Re: A short course on PTSD

Thank you for this piece. I have a few guys in our local Outpost who are really struggling wtih PTSD and even a lady. It's not just the men going through this. Thanks again and God Bless your ...work, Matt
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Old 06-17-2004, 07:01 AM
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Re: A short course on PTSD

Dana

Thanks for the reminder.
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