PTSD – Common Questions

Common Questions about PTSD

Are some people more likely to get PTSD than others?

Research has shown that individuals who come from dysfunctional chaotic families and may have suffered from conduct disorder as teenagers are more vulnerable to PTSD because they may not have learned healthy coping skills during those important formative years. These skills include seeking help or sharing with family or friends. Instead, they tend to withdraw socially. This is especially true for those who serve in the military or who are first responders such as firefighters, police officers, and paramedics. First responders and military personnel have a justifiable fear of reporting symptoms of PTSD to their superiors because of potential harm to their careers. When this happens, the only advice they are getting is from themselves and so the cycle of feeling weak or ashamed or defective in some way develops and gains strength over time.

Other research has shown that, within the branches of the military, those most likely to suffer from PTSD are in the Army National Guard. These citizen soldiers have been called on to reinforce combat areas like those in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Combat Outpost Keating comes to mind. Imagine carrying on your job as a bank clerk or air conditioning repair person and then finding yourself in a heavy combat zone halfway across the world 48 hours later. Those least likely to suffer from PTSD are in the Marine Corps due to their enhanced combat training.

A word about our serving police officers—The Thin Blue Line. These are individuals who do not go home after 18 months for rest and recreation with their families. These are individuals who risk their lives every day of the year, year after year. Working undercover puts them at increased risk for PTSD.

The everyday citizen may acquire PTSD if they happen to witness a disaster where lives are at risk or are taken or where their own life is threatened. We have only to watch the videos of 9/11 to realize the shockwaves of disaster and terrorism.

These are some of the people most likely to get PTSD. But remember that statistics apply to populations, not individuals. What is reported above is the result of research into identifying those individuals most likely to suffer from PTSD.

May I say a brief word about an important arm of the military and our police departments? I am speaking of the canine units: trained to sniff out drugs, bombs, IEDs, bad guys. These indispensable dogs do their jobs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, etc., without question any time of the day or night, and yes, they too are susceptible to PTSD. There are organizations where they may be adopted, I think Lackland AFB a major canine training facility that adopts out canines. Specially trained dogs can provide assistance for individuals with PTSD. This link provides more information: www.k9sforwarriors.org

contributed by Barbara Maxwell, Ph.D.

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