For a Soldier, stressful situations may seem like part of the job. But experiencing a traumatic event like combat or a natural disaster could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to feel fear or intense stress even when there is no danger around. Knowing how to spot the signs of PTSD is the first step in helping a friend get the care or support he or she needs.
What are the Signs?
Service members returning from deployment can sometimes feel anxiety or stress. However, long-term stress can lead to PTSD. Here are a few signs of PTSD to be on the lookout for in your battle buddy:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing nightmares or flashbacks
- Avoids crowds
- Loss of interest in activities
- Startled by loud noises
- Feels on edge or alert
- Shows unhealthy behavior changes: excessive drinking or drug use, aggressive driving, etc.
These symptoms can appear right after a traumatic event or may take several months to appear.
Treatment options for PTSD include counseling, group or family therapy, medication, and alternative medicine. The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms of PTSD and help Soldiers find the best ways to cope. If PTSD symptoms are left untreated, it can lead to other concerns like depression, relationship problems, or substance misuse. Encourage your fellow Soldier to reach out for help now for a positive outcome. Take the Life Pledge and support each other.
How Can I Help?
Talk about it. After a traumatic event, try talking with your buddy about what happened to him or her. Give him or her comfort but also time and space. Avoid arguing and giving advice.
Encourage your buddy to get help. Here are ways someone experiencing PTSD can get help:
- Reach out to a Psychological Health Coordinator—they are qualified to help provide support for PTSD or other concerns and connect you with local resources. Search the drop down list on Guard Your Health.com to find a coordinator in your state or territory. Chaplains are also available in your state as an additional resource for support. They can help Soldiers of all faiths sort through emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
- Download the PTSD Coach app—this app can help manage symptoms, find support, and self-assess. The app is available for Apple and Android.
- Call the 24/7 Military Crisis Line—call 800-273-8255 to get free, confidential support to get your friend the help he or she needs.
Take your friend’s mind off it. Supporting your buddy with PTSD can help them with the healing process. Being there to help them cope can be just as important as seeking treatment. Send them a quick text message or give them a call to see how they’re doing. You can also plan fun activities together!
- Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder from the National Center for PTSD.
- Share this short assessment with your buddy who may experiencing PTSD.
- Visit the Real Warriors Campaign for information on anxiety disorders and how to talk to your friend who may have PTSD.