Did you know the estimated number of combat service members, veterans who suffer from signature wounds such as invisible injuries of combat trauma, traumatic brain injury (or both) is 1 in 3?
These signature wounds include painful symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance, isolation, hyper-arousal reactions including anger outbursts. Lone Survivor Foundation’s Post-traumatic Growth Programs include education for service members, veterans and their family members on the warning signs, symptoms and characteristics of these injuries, and provide skills and resources for continued recovery.
Lone Survivor Foundation Can Help
LSF provides Post-traumatic Growth Programs at no cost for service members, veterans affected by Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Chronic Pain, and Military Sexual Trauma.
For more information about our programs, click here.
WHAT IS POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)?
These self-assessment questions are not intended to provide a diagnosis or substitute for a professional evaluation. Self Assessment questions obtained from MyHealth.VA.Gov.
The following questions are a list of problems and complaints that service members, veterans sometimes have in response to stressful military experiences. Have you experienced any of these problems in the past month? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to your military service.
- Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful military experience?
Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful military experience?
Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful military experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it)?
Feeling very upset when something reminded you of a stressful military experience?
Having physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating) when something reminded you of a stressful military experience?
Avoiding thinking about or talking about a stressful military experience or avoiding having feelings related to it?
Avoiding activities or situations because they reminded you of a stressful military experience?
Trouble remembering important parts of a stressful military experience?
Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy?
Feeling distant or cut off from other people?
Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to have loving feelings for those close to you?
Feeling as if your future somehow will be cut short?
Trouble falling or staying asleep?
Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts?
Having difficulty concentrating?
Feeling jumpy or easily startled?
If you answered yes to many of the questions above, you may be experiencing symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For a formal diagnosis and evaluation, please consult your physician.
Traumatic Brain Injury
WHAT IS TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?
The following self-assessment questions are not intended to provide a diagnosis or substitute for a professional evaluation. TBI symptoms obtained from the Mayo Clinic.
Traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later. The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
- No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleeping more than usual
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell
- Sensitivity to light or sound
Cognitive or mental symptoms
- Memory or concentration problems
- Mood changes or mood swings
- Feeling depressed or anxious
If you are experiencing many of the symptoms above, you may be experiencing symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury. For a formal diagnosis and evaluation, please consult your physician.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
The following information is summarized from an article written by Lorie T. DeCarvalho, PhD for the National Center for PTSD. Click here to read the full article.
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), chronic pain involves suffering from pain in a particular area of the body (e.g., in the back or the neck) for at least three to six months. Chronic pain may be as severe as, if not more severe than, acute pain but the individual’s experience is ”modulated and compounded by the prolonged or recurrent nature of the chronic state, and further complicated by a multitude of economic and psychosocial factors” (2). In stark contrast to acute pain, chronic pain persists beyond the amount of time that is normal for an injury to heal.
Chronic pain can have a variety of sources including disease processes or injuries. Some chronic pain stems from a traumatic event, such as a physical or sexual assault, a motor vehicle accident, or some type of disaster. Under these circumstances the person may experience both chronic pain and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRONIC PAIN LIKE PHYSICALLY?
There are many forms of chronic pain, and each type of condition results in different experiences of pain and disability. As an example, chronic low back pain (CLBP), the most pervasive or common type of pain, is known to result in severe disability and limitation of movement.
Most patients with chronic pain resort to invasive assessment or treatment procedures, including surgery, to help ameliorate the pain. Individuals with chronic pain are less able to function in daily life than those who do not suffer from chronic pain. Patients with severe chronic pain and limited mobility oftentimes are unable to perform activities of daily living, such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting light objects, doing paperwork, standing in line at a grocery store, going shopping, or working. Many patients with chronic pain cannot work because of their pain or physical limitations.
WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRONIC PAIN LIKE PSYCHOLOGICALLY?
Chronic pain and the disability that often comes with it can lead to a cognitive reevaluation and reintegration of one’s belief systems, values, emotions, and feelings of self-worth (7). Numerous studies have indicated that many patients who experience chronic pain (up to 100%) tend also to be clinically depressed (8-10). In fact, depression is the most common psychiatric diagnosis in patients with chronic pain (11). The experience of progressive, consistent chronic pain and disability also translates for many individuals into having thoughts of suicide as a means of ending their pain and frustration (12).
PTSD AND CHRONIC PAIN
The prevalence of PTSD is substantially elevated in patients with chronic pain. A current PTSD prevalence of 35% was seen in a sample of chronic pain patients (13), compared to 3.5% in the general population (14). In a study of patients with chronic low back pain, 51% of the patients evidenced significant PTSD symptoms (15). In another study of patients who experienced chronic pain following a motor vehicle accident, researchers found that 50% of the patients developed PTSD (16).
One symptom of PTSD is that the person becomes emotionally or physically upset when reminded of the traumatic event. For people with chronic pain, the pain may actually serve as a reminder of the traumatic event, which will tend to exacerbate the PTSD.
Military Sexual Trauma
WHAT IS MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA (MST)?
The following information is summarized from the National Center for PTSD. Click here to read the full article.
Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a service member, veteran experienced during his or her military service.
The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D) and is “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the service member, veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.”
Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”
More concretely, MST includes any sexual activity where a Service member is involved against his or her will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include:
- Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing
- Threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities
- Threatening and unwelcome sexual advances
The identity or characteristics of the perpetrator, whether the Servicemember was on or off duty at the time, and whether he or she was on or off base at the time do not matter. If these experiences occurred while an individual was on active duty or active duty for training, they are considered by VA to be MST.
HOW COMMON IS MST?
VA’s national screening program, in which every service member, veteran seen for health care is asked whether he or she experienced MST, provides data on how common MST is among service members, veterans seen in VA. National data from this program reveal that about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men respond “yes,” that they experienced MST, when screened by their VA provider. Although rates of MST are higher among women, because there are many more men than women in the military, there are actually significant numbers of women and men seen in VA who have experienced MST.
HOW CAN MST AFFECT SERVICE MEMBERS, VETERANS?
MST is an experience, not a diagnosis or a mental health condition, and as with other forms of trauma, there are a variety of reactions that service members, veterans can have in response to MST. Some of the experiences both female and male survivors of MST may have include:
- Strong emotions: feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional responses to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time
- Feelings of numbness: feeling emotionally “flat”; difficulty experiencing emotions like love or happiness
- Trouble sleeping: trouble falling or staying asleep; disturbing nightmares
- Difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory: trouble staying focused; frequently finding their mind wandering; having a hard time remembering things
- Problems with alcohol or other drugs: drinking to excess or using drugs daily; getting intoxicated or “high” to cope with memories or emotional reactions; drinking to fall asleep
- Difficulty with things that remind them of their experiences of sexual trauma: feeling on edge or “jumpy” all the time; difficulty feeling safe; going out of their way to avoid reminders of their experiences
- Difficulties with relationships: feeling isolated or disconnected from others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures; difficulty trusting others
- Physical health problems: sexual difficulties; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; gastrointestinal problems
Care Partner Stress
WHAT IS CARE PARTNER STRESS?
Note: Lone Survivor Foundation chose to use the term “Care Partner Stress” to refer to the symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress or Compassion Fatigue commonly experienced by the spouse of service member, veteran with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Care Partner Stress” was suggested by the participants at one of our early sessions for military spouses as a way of referring to their unique experience in a empowering way.
The following information is summarized from an article written by Rachel Brauner for the Military Families Learning Network. Click here to read the full article.
Is your service member, veteran experiencing symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or has he/she been exposed to traumatic events while serving? Has these traumatic events indirectly affected your ability to care, causing burnout and significant distress? If so, you may be at risk for a phenomenon called compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress (STS). Compassion fatigue, if not treated, can lead to impairment in social and occupational functioning.
What is compassion fatigue or STS? STS is ‘a syndrome of symptoms nearly identical to PTSD except that exposure to a traumatizing event experienced by one person becomes a traumatizing event for the second person’ (Figley, 1999). Compassion fatigue can occur in spouses or partners and children of service members, veterans who have experienced combat. Also professionals working with wounded warriors can indirectly be affected, limiting their ability to provide the necessary services for families and service members, veterans. Be aware of the symptoms that may be causing you compassion fatigue or STS. Symptoms may include:
- Distressing dreams related to your service member, veteran’s traumatic experiences
- Functional impairment due to family, social and occupational environments
- Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the service member, veteran’s experiences
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Irritability, frustration, or anger
It may seem like an oxymoron, but the truth is that you can care too much.
When caregivers care so much that they neglect themselves, it can create a downward spiral of self-destruction known as Compassion Fatigue. Understanding the symptoms of this condition is the first step of managing it and to move forward to a healthier state of being.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Feeling immune to the suffering of others
- Feeling hopeless or isolated
- Bottling up your emotions
- Addiction (drugs, alcohol, food)
- Looking for someone to blame or hold accountable for you and your loved one’s circumstances
- Preoccupation with your loved one’s health and well-being, while neglecting other people and relationships
- Neglecting yourself (emotional or physical health, personal hygiene, etc.)
- Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Chronic physical ailments
- Financial problems due to neglect or being overwhelmed
- Violent thoughts
If you identify with many of the symptoms above, you may be experiencing symptoms of Secondary Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For a formal diagnosis and evaluation, please consult your physician.
Lone Survivor Foundation Can Help
LSF provides a therapeutic Post-traumatic Growth Program at no cost for service members, veterans affected by Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Chronic Pain, and Military Sexual Trauma.
For more information about our programs, click here.