Our mission at the Disposable Heroes Project is to provide support, and a voice, for our active, former, and fallen heroes. We serve all branches of the military and their families, and are committed to ensuring these heroes are never without the assistance they need.

There are many ways in which we help our active and former troops when they return home. And while our support - and their needs - are greatly varied, one of the most important ways we (and their families) can contribute to their well-being is by fully understanding the symptoms of PTSD.

Only then can we all ensure that our heroes are given access to the resources they need to live a fulfilling and happy life.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after someone has been through a shocking and dangerous event, such as, of course, battle. PTSD can happen to anyone - with some studies suggesting that up to 8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

However, military men and women are at greater risk. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans with PTSD vary by service era:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm)About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Vietnam WarAbout 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD in the late 1980s. It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Other factors contribute to PTSD as well, including what a soldier’s role in the war was, the politics surrounding the war, where battles took place, as well as the type of enemy the soldiers faced.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurring nightmare of the traumatic event
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of interest
  • Anger or irritability
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Being always on guard
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Being easily startled

These symptoms may not surface for months or years after the actual event occurred, and they may come and go. However, if they persist over time, and disrupt your daily life, then you may have PTSD.

Disruptions include:

  • Avoiding places or things that remind you of what happened
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with the trauma
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
  • A need to keep busy with work or other hobbies to occupy your mind
  • Isolating yourself

Here’s the issue: People who suffer from PTSD may not be able (or willing) to recognize these symptoms and behaviors on their own. They may be aware of them, but are in denial.

That’s why it’s incredibly important for families, friends, and other support circles to be on the lookout for any sign of PTSD early on – the earlier PTSD is addressed, the more successful treatment can be.

Treatment for PTSD

Research has come a long way in recent years, aiding in the effectiveness of PTSD treatment. There are two types of treatment that have been proven effective:

  • Counseling
  • Medication

Therapy or counseling can help PTSD sufferers understand the reasons behind their thoughts and reactions, and can provide coping strategies to address these challenging situations.

Medications can also be used to reduce tension or irritability, as well as to improve sleep. Of course, doctors must provide more detail regarding the best types of medications for each individual case.

Taking the next step

Whether you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD, it’s never too late to get treatment. We strongly recommend that you consult with:

  • Your doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does.
  • A mental health professional: such as a therapist.
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center.
  • A spiritual or religious adviser

We also encourage you to learn more about the work we do here at The Disposable Heroes Project. Founded in 2009 by a former Marine Corps sniper, we are keenly aware of the challenges our soldiers face when they return home.

You can learn more about us here.