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For more than twenty years, Patricia Dietz, a wife of a Vietnam veteran, has suffered along with her husband the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. She has stated that, "It has changed everything; it has affected the rest of his and her life." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when a person is haunted by his memories so badly that it affects not only the rest of his life, but others close to him as well.
Any time there is a traumatic event, physical danger, or threat or personal danger, this disorder is able to appear in ones' life (USA Today Magazine). "A key factor is the persons' response to this event, whether it happens to them or they are witnesses to feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror" (USA Today Magazine). "To be classified as PTSD the symptoms must last longer than one month, and usually appear within six months to a year after the event" (USA Today Magazine). Jim Dwyer describes Traumatic memories as "frozen in time, waiting to thaw" (Block, Norris). "PTSD has become a common condition among the armed forces as well as the police, and it has spread throughout society" (Fitzpatrick). "After Vietnam, PTSD appeared and was rapidly taken over from the veterans" (Fitzpatrick).
There are a large number of symptoms of PTSD. The Veterans symptoms can be identical to those symptoms experienced when the actual trauma was occurring (Panzarino). "[symptoms include] May be prone to insomnia, irritability, or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, and an exaggerated startled response when shocked" (USA Today Magazine). Michael Wheeler, a Vietnam veteran, is divorced because of PTSD, he was having thoughts of suicide, he couldn't handle life, he thought he was going crazy (Block, Norris). More symptoms are night terrors (dreams), flashbacks, and recurrent/intrusive thoughts of traumatic events (USA Today Magazine). "Many PTSD sufferers develop depression and anxiety or obsessive/compulsive disorder, in addition to alcohol or drug problems" (USA Today Magazine).
"Of all the Wars in which Americans have fought Vietnam was without a doubt the one in which soldiers experienced the greatest psychological difficulties" (Welsh 58). In the Vietnam war the enemy didn't have a uniform, they could be hidden in with some of your allies this caused a lot of confusion and led to the saying "I wasn't really sure what was going on," and is probably the key reason why there are so many PTSD sufferers (Welsh 58).
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PTSD can ruin a veterans' relationship with family and friends. An anonymous veteran stated "My marriage is falling apart, we just don't talk any more" also "I really don't have any friends and I'm pretty particular about who I wasn't as a friend" he also stated "My wife is talking about leaving. I guess it's no big deal. Bit I'm lonely. I really don't have anyone else" (Goodwin 3) "At age 58, Larry Peterson, a disabled Vietnam veteran, thought he would be in prison" (Pettypiece). Many PTSD Vietnam veterans have rage problems. "The veterans rage is frightening to them and to others around them. For no apparent reason, [it seems], many will strike out at whomever is near. Often it is because of a flashback in which the veteran is surrounded by Vietnamese, and the veteran tries to defend himself." (Goodwin 14)
PTSD has not always been known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "It was not until World War 1 that specific clinical syndromes came to be associated with combat duty. In prior wars, it was assumed that such casualties were merely manifestations of poor discipline and cowardice."(Goodwin 5). During World War 1 PTSD was called shell shock, because of the high air pressure of the exploding shells was believed to cause psychological damage (Panzarino) (Goodwin 5). During World War 2 PTSD was growing and was referred to as combat fatigue (Panzarino). The Vietnam War changed the whole way people got this PTSD, veterans would not get the disorder until after the war, hence the name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Goodwin 6).
There are treatments for PTSD. "The basic tools for the treatment of PTSD are: Individual psychotherapy that is targeted at symptom clusters, Peer group support, and Medication" (Panzarino) Group support is one of the most recommended forms of treatment. "The veteran is usually quite isolated and has lost many of his social skills. He has few contacts with other human beings. The group provides a microcosm in which he can again learn how to interact with other people. It also helps remove the fear, prevalent among these veterans, that each individual veteran is the only individual with these symptoms. In addition, many of the veterans form close support groups of their own outside the therapy sessions; they telephone each other and help each other through particularly problematic episodes. It provides a forum in which veterans troubled by their combat experiences can work their feelings through with other veterans who have had similar conflicts." (Goodwin 19).
There are more Veterans with PTSD from Vietnam than any other war. From being confused about who is on what side to waiting for someone to jump out, Vietnam was one of our worst wars and the brave soldiers who risked their lives have wasted their lives. Not in battle, but with PTSD, for PTSD will never leave many veterans or it has taken a huge chunk out of their lives.
- - -."Non Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress" USA Today Magazine 1 April 1995: 1
Fitzpatrick, Mike. "Doctoring Risk Society: The Home Front" The Lancet 29 March 2003: 1
Pettypiece, Shannon. "Enabling disabled veterans" Crain's Cleveland Business 2 May 2005: 2
Welsh, Douglas. The Vietnam War New York: Gallery Books, 1982.
Block, Melissa and Michele Norris. Radio interview. 25 April 2003
Panzarino, Peter. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. MedicineNet.com. 24 June 2005 http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm
Goodwin, Jim. The Etiology of Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS. - - - 1987