PTSD Guide for Veterans, Active Duty, Family and Civilians

PTSD Guide for Veterans, Active Duty, Family and Civilians

PSTD-Fueled Suicide Is Taking Too Many of Our Brave Veterans

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  • In the United States about 3.5% of adults have PTSD in a given year, and 9% of people develop it at some point in their life.
  • In much of the rest of the world, rates during a given year are between 0.5% and 1%.
  • Higher rates may occur in regions of armed conflict. It is more common in women than men.
  • Symptoms of trauma-related mental disorders have been documented since at least the time of the ancient Greeks.

During the World Wars the condition was known under various terms including “shell shock” and “combat neurosis”.

The term “post-traumatic stress disorder” came into use in the 1970s in large part due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War. It was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.


PTSD Definition

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people – soldiers and civilians – develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about, but most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD.


PTSD Prevention

There is little evidence to suggest that prevention is possible, so all claims from any source should be met with skepticism and caution. Once a Soldier likes the idea and term “resilience”, but recognizes that prevention is not possible at this time.

Modest benefits have been seen from early access to cognitive behavioral therapy. Critical incident stress management has been suggested as a means of preventing PTSD, but subsequent studies suggest the likelihood of its producing negative outcomes. A review “…did not find any evidence to support the use of an intervention offered to everyone”, and that “…multiple session interventions may result in worse outcome than no intervention for some individuals.”

Resilience can be strengthened through:
Realistic, duty-related stress training (e.g., live-fire exercises, survival and captivity training)
Coping skills training (e.g., relaxation, cognitive reframing and problem-solving skills training)
Supportive work environment (e.g., open team communication and peer support)
Adaptive beliefs about the work role and traumatic experiences (e.g., confidence in
leadership and realistic expectancies about work environment)
Workplace-specific traumatic stress management programs (e.g., chaplains and mental
health professionals)

PTSD Causes

Anyone can get PTSD at any age. The list of triggers for this anxiety disorder is quite long and includes natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tsunamis, a serious accident and witnessing a death, especially a violent one.

War veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters and many other traumatic events. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.

Causes in the Brain

PTSD symptoms develop due to dysfunction in two key regions of the brain:

The Amygdala

This is a small almond-shaped structure located deep in the middle of the temporal lobe. The amygdala is designed to:

  • Detect threats in the environment and activate the “fight or flight” response
  • Activate the sympathetic nervous system to help you deal with the threat
  • Help you store new emotional or threat-related memories

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)

The Prefrontal Cortex is located in the frontal lobe just behind your forehead. The PFC is designed to:

  • Regulate attention and awareness
  • Make decisions about the best response to a situation
  • Initiate conscious, voluntary behavior
  • Determine the meaning and emotional significance of events
  • Regulate emotions
  • Inhibit or correct dysfunctional reactions

When your brain detects a threat, the amygdala initiates a quick, automatic defensive (“fight or flight”) response involving the release of adrenaline, and glucose to rev up your brain and body. Should the threat continue, the amygdala communicates with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release cortisol. Meanwhile, the medial part of the prefrontal cortex consciously assesses the threat and either accentuates or calms down the “fight or flight” response.

Studies of response to threat in people with PTSD show:

  • A hyper reactive amygdala
  • A less activated medial PFC

In other words, the amygdala reacts too strongly to a potential threat while the medial PFC is impaired in its ability to regulate the threat response.

Consequences of Brain Dysfunctions in PTSD


Because the amygdala is overactive, more (medicine name removed) is released in response to threat and its release is not well-regulated by the PFC.

Effects of excess (medicine name removed) include:

  1. Hyperarousal.
  2. Hypervigilance
  3. Increased wakefulness and sleep disruption

As a result of hyperarousal, people with PTSD can get emotionally triggered by anything that resembles the original trauma (e.g., a sexual assault survivor telling her story on TV,  a loud noise, or passing somebody who looks like their assailant). Symptoms of hypervigilance means they are frequently keyed up and on edge, while increased wakefulness means they may have difficulty sleeping or wake up in the middle of the night.

Reactive Anger and Impulsivity

A reactive amygdala keeps people with PTSD on the alert and ready for quick action when they face a threat, leading them to be more impulsive. The orbital PFC is a part of the PFC that can inhibit motor behavior (physical action) when it is not appropriate or necessary. In people with PTSD, the orbital PFC has lower volume and is less activated. This means that people with PTSD have less control over reactive anger and impulsive behaviors when they are emotionally triggered. Reactive anger can cause damage to career success and interfere with relationship functioning.

Increased Fear and Anger and Decreased Positive Emotionality

People with PTSD often report feeling an excess of negative emotion and little positive emotion. They may have difficulty enjoying their day-to-day activities and interactions. This could be the result of a hyperactive amygdala communicating with the insula, an area of the brain associated with introspection and emotional awareness. The amygdala-insula circuit also impacts the medial PFC, an area associated with assigning meaning to events and regulating emotions. Research shows overactivity of the amygdala-amygdala-insult circuit can suppress the medial PFC, thereby interfering with the ability to regulate negative emotions and assign more positive meaning to events.


PTSD Symptoms

Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response. These symptoms last for more than a month after the event. Young children are less likely to show distress but instead may express their memories through play.

Symptoms of PTSD generally begin within the first 3 months after the inciting traumatic event, but may not begin until years later. In the typical case, the individual with PTSD persistently avoids trauma-related thoughts and emotions, and discussion of the traumatic event, and may even have amnesia of the event. However, the event is commonly re-lived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, dissociative episodes of reliving the trauma (“flashbacks”), and nightmares.

While it is common to have symptoms after any traumatic event, these must persist to a sufficient degree (i.e., causing dysfunction in life or clinical levels of distress) for longer than one month after the trauma to be classified as PTSD (clinically significant dysfunction or distress for less than one month after the trauma may be acute stress disorder).

According to the VA, there are 4 types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

Reliving the Event

Unwelcome memories about the trauma can come up at any time. They can feel very real and scary, as if the event is happening again. This is called a flashback. You may also have nightmares.

Memories of the trauma can happen because of a trigger — something that reminds you of the event. For example, seeing a news report about a disaster may trigger someone who lived through a hurricane. Or hearing a car backfire might bring back memories of gunfire for a combat Veteran.

Avoiding things that remind you of the event
You may try to avoid certain people or situations that remind you of the event.

For example, someone who was assaulted on the bus might avoid taking public transportation. Or a combat Veteran may avoid crowded places like shopping malls because it feels dangerous to be around so many people. You may also try to stay busy all the time so you don’t have to talk or think
about the event.

More Negative Thoughts and Feelings
You may feel more negative than you did before the trauma. You might be sad or numb — and lose interest in things you used to enjoy, like spending time with friends. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. It may be hard for you to feel or express happiness, or other positive

Feeling on Edge
It’s common to feel jittery or “keyed up” — like it’s hard to relax. This is called hyperarousal. You might have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel like you’re always on the lookout for danger. You may suddenly get angry and irritable — and if someone surprises you, you might startle easily.

PTSD Screening

Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example, a serious accident or fire, a physical or sexual assault or abuse, an earthquake or flood, a war, seeing someone be killed or seriously injured, or having a loved one die through homicide or suicide.

Have you ever experienced a serious accident or fire, a physical or sexual assault or abuse, an earthquake or flood, a war, seeing someone be killed or seriously injured, or having a loved one die through homicide or suicide?

If yes, please answer the questions below. In the past month, have you:

Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s)
when you didn’t want to?

Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to
avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?

Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?

Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?

Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s)
or any problems the event(s) may have caused?

If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, talk to a mental
health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.

Answering “yes” to 3 or more questions does not mean you have PTSD.

Only a mental health care provider can tell you for sure. You may still want to talk to a mental health care provider. If thoughts and feelings from the trauma are bothering you, treatment can help — whether or not you have PTSD.


PTSD Management/Treatment/Recovery

Once a Soldier takes an unusual position for a nonprofit advocating for all kinds of drug and drug-free therapies. The “fight or flight” instinct that fuels most PTSD is a powerful agent. We feel our to fight PTSD we need all the tools in the kit to win.

Find all the FDA-approved treatments here

Find CBD info here

Find medical marijuana info here

Find free and drug-free Tapping technique info here

Find Transcendental Meditation technique info here

Find psycho-therapy treatments here

Medical marijuana may be available in your state and the most recent studies have shown that there marijuana is not addictive and offers some relief. The effects vary from person to person, so there is no clear-cut recommendation except to try it and see if it works for you.

Medications can treat PTSD symptoms alone or with therapy — but only therapy treats
the underlying cause of your symptoms. If you treat your PTSD symptoms only with
medication, you’ll need to keep taking it for it to keep working.


Once a Soldier does not have an opinion on whether therapy works or not, but here are the types of treatment available from the VA. Plus we’d included some information from a Virginia treatment facility that gives you a bit of a view of what you can expect should you go for treatment.

Trauma-focused Psychotherapies
Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended treatment for PTSD.

“Trauma-focused” means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. In this booklet, we’ll tell you about 3 of the most effective traumafocuse psychotherapies for PTSD. In each of these psychotherapies, you’ll meet with a therapist once or twice a week, for 50 to 90 minutes. You and your therapist will have specific goals and topics to cover during each session. Treatment usually lasts for 3 to 4 months. Then, if you still have symptoms, you and your therapist can talk about other ways to manage them.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
People with PTSD often try to avoid things that remind them of the trauma. This can help you feel better in the moment, but in the long term it can keep you from recovering
from PTSD.

In PE, you expose yourself to the thoughts, feelings, and situations that you’ve been
avoiding. It sounds scary, but facing things you’re afraid of in a safe way can help you
learn that you don’t need to avoid reminders of the trauma.

What happens during PE?
Your therapist will ask you to talk about your trauma over and over. This will help you get more control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma so you don’t need to be afraid of your memories. She will also help you work up to doing the things you’ve been avoiding.

For example,let’s say you avoid driving because it reminds you of an accident. At first, you might just sit in the car and practice staying calm with breathing exercises. Gradually, you’ll work towards driving without being upset by memories of your trauma.

The following is from a Virginia-based program:

The purpose of the treatment program you are entering is to help you recover from PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). No one can say your symptoms will be completely removed from your life forever, but we can help you learn skills to regain control of your life, manage your reactions and responses, and live a meaningful life. To do this, we will provide you with information and teach you skills and strategies that you can use to improve your life and reduce your PTSD symptoms. Your part will be to learn this information, practice these skills, and implement these new approaches so that you can experience the recovery that you deserve. This manual will act as a written guide to help you through this process, so please bring it with you to each session.

Goals: to help you recover from PTSD and live a meaningful life.

This program is designed to help you:
1.Develop a full and accurate understanding of the physical and emotional responses
that are characteristic of PTSD.
2.Develop a mindset that helps you maintain control of yourself at all times and know the skills and tools to do so.
3.Learn, practice, and instill coping skills as a necessary part of your recovery.
4.Learn how to fully integrate back into the family, community, and civilian life.

Strategies: These are some of the ways we will facilitate your recovery.

1.We will use a group format to help you learn information and skills. This will help you
discover you are not the only one experiencing these symptoms and to learn from
others how they have successfully overcome problems and learned to cope.

2.These groups will be very structured. Each will have a purpose and goal. It will be
important for you to attend all groups and learn the entire sequence of skill

3.We will give you homework to complete between sessions. Doing your homework is
what helps your recovery.

4.You will learn several skills that will help you deal with expected and unexpected
difficulties, interpersonal conflicts, and avoidant behavior.

Source for this guide include:

  • Wikipedia
  • VA: Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment
  • VA: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Pocket Guide: To Accompany the 2010 VA/DoD Clinical
  • Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-traumatic Stress
  • From Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC’s PTSD Recovery Program Treatment Manual

As Little As $20 Helps Pay Their Unpaid Funeral Bills

Veteran suicide families live with PTSD, drug addiction and worse for years, only to find the body at the end. Let’s lift them up and lift off their burden.


New American Tragedy: Where Guns Meet PTSD

New American Tragedy: Where Guns Meet PTSD

May 2018 Veteran Facility Killing is PTSD Fueled by Firearms

SPECIAL UPDATE: February 17, 2019

Please see our blog about new Ketamine treatments for PTSD and depression. There are new micro-dosing breakthrough treatments available that work fast with minimal side effects. Ketamine is used in anasthesiology and yes, in large doses, it is known as the street drug Special K. 


Original post:

It’s hard to see veteran suicide and be-pro gun.  Firearms are the number one method of veteran suicide. We’d love to be put out of business, and guns keep us here. It’s the law, but it’s not helping our American veterans or their families. Now news of this:

A veteran, suffering from PTSD, murdered three defenseless women – one of them 7-months pregnant – in a Yountville, California veterans facility. It could be described as a perfect storm of three wrongs making a fourth. The wrongs; PTSD, a disturbed person easily getting a hold of guns and ammo, and the culture of mass murder in America.

Sadly, this incident breaks a wall that surprises in a world where nothing can anymore. A look at the sad facts reveals that even those trying to help vets suffering from PTSD are not safe where so many guns are within arm’s reach.

The victims were identified as The Pathway Home Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48; Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. A family friend told The Associated Press that Gonzales was seven months pregnant.


 70% of Veteran Suicides are Caused by Firearms

These three women who worked at Pathway Home, a residential program within the Yountville Veterans Home, were there to help people like the murderer, but in a sad, sick twist, found themselves victims of the same issue they were there to ease. The murderer was a veteran, having served in the Middle East. His intent was clear as he wore body armor (who needs that to go hunting or shooting?) and sported ammo rounds “hanging around his neck”, as described by an eye-witness. He was expelled from the facility days before. Why isn’t know at this time, but the irony is disturbing.

Ms. Loeber, the director of the Pathway Home, was so dedicated that she often times slept nights in her office to cover a vacant shift. Ms. Gonzalez, the pregnant victim who was heading to D.C. to celebrate her upcoming birth with family, was described as by a learned colleague as a “brilliant” talent who did amazing work with veterans with PTSD. How that assistance is gone for those by the cowardly, self-centered act of one person. Again, PTSD meets guns and it’s over.

The murderer also exposes the failings of our armed forces. He was not “the best of the best” but was an emotionally at-risk individual going in. This is the kind of recruit that our armed forces thrives on these days. With numbers shrinking all the time and millions and millions of advertising dollars needed to be spent on TV ads and NFL sponsorships, our military is bloated, sick, and getting worse.

Guns in America, PTSD, and how we treat our veterans are a highly-volatile combination that don’t have a bright future. But this blogger knows that only one of them can be legislated out of existence and over time. Only one of them was used to kill three civilians. Only one of is supported by corrupt dollars in the hands of corrupt special-interest groups and those politicians willing to sell their souls. In the end, there’s a chance that banning guns and all the military-style accessories that come with them, will give us a chance at ending PTSD and war as we know it. We need to start somewhere and we need to start now.

3 Reasons for Soldier Suicides in VA Parking Lots

3 Reasons for Soldier Suicides in VA Parking Lots

Solider suicide isn’t what you think. The overwhelming majority – 14 out of 22 – are not committed by young kids who lose their nerve in battle. Or by an active duty lifer who just can’t deal one more day. These tragic events do happen every day, and that’s a real shame, but what soldier suicide really looks like is a white man, color doesn’t matter here, over the age of 50 who can’t stand the PTSD anymore, the VA visits that go nowhere, and a thousand other reasons I have no insight into. But what I do know now is that these suicides are happening in the parking lot of their VA and still no great leap forward. Mission not yet accomplished.

Once a Soldier knows that the Veterans Administration can’t keep up with the need. We are not here to fix or even understand what the problems or offer a solution. We are here because like so many others, we just can’t escape the hard reality of veteran soldier suicide. Our mission is to aid their families, but we now realize that that is just a small part of a bigger whole. We remain happy in our mission, but we have to face the facts of veteran soldier suicide.

In short, stop soldier suicide and stop doing it in the VA parking lot. It’s not working and it’s too sad to continue. That’s not an order, that’s a plea. I have no solution and can only ask. Up until today, I had no knowledge of these types of soldier suicide. Sad to say, the reasons that are listed as to why in one of the following stories actually makes sense. Twisted and sorrowful, but very practical.

Here’s a comment we received that prompted our discovery process into the VA suicides and that offers an insider’s view of the situation. I’ve edited it very slightly to better highlight what I think the author’s points are:

U** R****** on February 4, 2018 at 2:55 pm 

Seen as an inside observer of the medical community and also as a VA patient.

1. Parking lot suicides are done for two reasons. 

Veterans do not want their loved ones to find their bodies and know the VA will dispose of them. The other reason is that it is the final FU to a government which is so full of bureaucracy it has rendered itself useless. However, in all fairness, this trend has extended itself to the civilian sector as well for quite some time where medical care is a form of Russian Roulette. Some are lucky to escape without harm, others end up damaged or dead. The word is collateral damage in medical care.

2. Too Much Papework

Dropping the ball in delivering medical care to veterans and civilians is becoming the norm. Health care workers are undulated (sic) with so much paper work for documentation and rules they have to follow as guidelines for the delivery of each aspect of care, they are utilizing the time they used to spend of patient care to document each and every move they make. If a time and motion study was implemented it would amaze people to know that more then (sic) 90 per cent of their time is spend documenting and covering their asses. If you are a VA patient, the time you spend with your provide (sic) is less than a few minutes because the rest of what they provide is looking at the computer screen, charting.

3. Profits over People

The patient has been considered the “consumer” in the medical field for over 20 years, whereby in civilian sectors they are called consumers. The word alone indicates that the patient has been placed on the Back 40, because the definition of consumer is purchaser, buyer, customer, shopper and patron. This enforces everything we read and know about medical care, it is a profit making organization and nothing more. The VA is blatant about their desire to make profit at the cost of the veterans who rely on their care. There are more and more job descriptions placed on each healthcare worker, and when there is a hiring freeze, they delegate the empty slots between the health care workers left, to carry the load, which frustrates and stresses them out because of work overload. The VA figures their health care providers and workers can function doing the workload of those they did not replace. The workers who are left trying their best to do their jobs, end up leaving, or are so overworked, the ball in medical care is dropped. The bottom line: profit.

Inasmuch as the VA is trying to curtail the numbers of suicides of their veterans, the task is equivalent to the war on drugs. A waste of time and money because the war on drugs was lost a long time ago and cost the tax payers more money than the fight was worth. One can not prevent intentional suicide. Impossible. Each case is different and each person is different. What goes through the human mind when the person reaches the final stage of ending his/her life can not be controlled.

Thank you for your time,


(URs name is edited for privacy reasons. Although he posted this comment, I don’t want to use it as his content is being repurposed.)

Here’s more insight and stories from these VA parking lot suicides.

63-year-old Paul Shuping was found in the parking lot by Durham VA police. A six-year Navy vet, Mr. Shuping’s act was discovered six days after it was committed. Offered partial benefits, he was denied full benefits due to a paperwork error. On top of his PTSD and depression, that was the final straw. Read the rest of the news story here.

A 76-year-old veteran committed suicide on Sunday, August 23,2016, in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Long Island, New York. Mr. Peter A. Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service,” one of the people, who currently works at the hospital, said. “And then he went to his car and shot himself.” The rest of that New York Times article is here. 

Mr. Kaisen’s was a big story that was heard around the country because at the time, it was considered shocking. “At the time” means as recent as a year and a half ago.

One last one:

Police say the 53-year-old veteran, Thomas Murphy, drove to the Phoenix VA regional office with a goodbye note and gun. Interestingly, a whistleblower at the VA, Brandon Coleman, has been put on leave, as of May 11, 2015, for trying to shed some light on the problems of at-risk vets. That news story is here.

Three reasons why vets are killing themselves in the VA parking lot and three stories of veteran soldier suicides that drive home the point. Also, they were all older white men who picked up a gun to solve the problems of PTSD, an overwhelmed VA system, and not enough benefits. There’s probably not an official tally of how many vets have killed themselves at a VA parking lot. There doesn’t need to be. One is enough to send the message. All of these and the message is clear: the message isn’t getting through.

Bitcoin Joins the Fight Against PTSD

Bitcoin Joins the Fight Against PTSD

Anonymous Donor offers up to $4 million towards PTSD Research

Pineapple Fund, a Bitcoin-only charity, has promised to match up to $4 million in donations to a nonprofit for MDMA-based PTSD research.

The non-profit leading the research, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is seeking $25 million in donations for Phase 3 of their drug trials. MAPS hopes to use MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as an effective treatment for PTSD sufferers.

The Pineapple Fund was created in early December 2017 by an anonymous donor who goes by the Reddit handle /u/PineappleFund. The donor presents themselves as an early Bitcoin adopter whose goal is to give $86 mln, or 5057 bitcoins, of earnings to charity.

A Jan. 10 Reddit post by /u/PineappleFund calls for donations to MAPS and announces the $4 mln pledge. The post also explains the usefulness of the MAPS trials due to what the anonymous donor sees as a lack of effective FDA-approved treatments for those suffering from PTSD.

/u/PineappleFund appeals to the cryptocurrency community to send Bitcoin or fiat payments as donations to MAPS:

“If you believe that psychedelic drugs can have incredible therapeutic potential, then I believe this is one of the highest impact projects today.”

The anonymous donor then concludes:

“I believe we, the cryptocurrency community, can fully fund Phase 3 trials. Prescription MDMA could be a gift to this world from the bitcoin community.”

FDA approval for these experimental therapies is expected by 2021, pending positive results of the Phase 3 trials.

Pineapple Fund already gave 59.89 bitcoin, with a value of $1 mln at the time of donation, to MAPS on December 14, 2017. According to the Fund’s website, so far approximately $20 mln has been donated to 23 organizations, including the Internet Archive, a NGO financing universal health care, and a philanthropic blockchain technology company.

Pineapple Fund is not the only Bitcoin-only charity: BitHope, a Bulgarian-based NGO, exclusively accepts cryptocurrency to fund crowdsourced campaigns on its site. Other Bitcoin-based charities include BitGive and CommonCollection.

The original author of this post is Molly Jane Zuckerman written for CoinTelegraph. See it here.


Here are some symptoms of PTSD from an earlier blog post we did recently, part of which is below:

Intrusive thoughts, emotions, or images: These may include vivid nightmares and/or flashbacks in which you feel as if the event is occurring all over again.

Avoidance and/or numbing: For instance, you may avoid people or things that remind you of your trauma, feel emotionally detached from the people around you, or block out parts of your traumatic experience.

Hyperarousal: Hyperarousal means being on red alert all the time, being jumpy or easily startled, having panic attacks, being very irritable, and/or being unable to sleep.


If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, take a simple first test with an online screening tool found here. You can print or save the results and share with your healthcare professional.

Once a Soldier is on a mission to ease or erase the financial burden of veterans’ families after a soldier suicide. 22 soldier suicides happen every day, and 14 of them, on average, are white veterans over the age of 50 suffering from PTSD. Every $30 donation gets you a free t-shirt. And 100% of that profit goes to the families.




Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a new name for an old condition: a traumatic, life-threatening event triggers this anxiety disorder. Through the years it has taken on different names, but no matter what you call it, PTSD or “shell-shock”, it’s a horror of war that we’ve had since the beginning. All we can say is #FUPTSD.


PTSD In Their Own Words

I began having nightmares and intrusive thoughts in addition to developing a sleep disorder, but was afraid of the stigma to seek help.  I was starting to have suicidal ideations. I had lost at least two more of my battle buddies at that point. Death seemed welcoming at that point. I wanted to end the pain I was going through. It just felt very confusing. I couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t like that I was taking it out on my soldiers and my family.

–  Manuel “Al” Alcantara

October 2015 


I avoid elevators, crowds and July 4th fireworks; I’m claustrophobic from the 12 days I spent in a lightless cell at the Luftwaffe interrogation center in Germany, and I won’t fly unless I have an aisle seat. I tell them about my bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force during WWII and the day that my B-17 exploded over Berlin. How I am plagued with guilt over the loss of four of my crewmates that day. What it was like being a POW for a year and how exhilarating it was to see Patton lead his troops through the barbed wire gates of our Stalag to liberate us.

 Anon WW II vet

Photo credit to Warbirds News

Link to story by Normal Bussel



The emotional numbness…will just tear away all of the relationships in your life, you know, if you don’t learn to unlock them [and] get those emotions out.

— Sarah C. Humphries  US Army (1994–2012)

Image and text copyright of VA

I went home one evening and all of sudden, I felt a tightness in my chest, it was hard to breathe, I felt closed in and panicky. I bolted out of bed thinking I was dying. I paced the room in the dark for hours before I exhausted myself. I almost went to the ER that night, but the Soldier in me said to stick it out. 

– Chaplain (Maj.) Carlos C. Huerta

April 25, 2012 Image and text copyright VA

Memory of the improvised explosive device (IED) that had taken my leg remained fresh in my mind. It took me a while to get down from that. Especially driving on the road, anything that looked like trash or debris on the side … I had nightmares

– Dexter Pitts  Iraq 2014


It was almost eight years ago that I took all the sleeping pills and medication I could get, drove to a farmer’s field and laid down, hoping for the end. I didn’t understand what was going on with me and it seemed everything I was doing was hurting people around me.


– Corporal Joseph Rustenburg

Sometimes I think I have most of this PTSD and guilt resolved. Other times I feel nothing has changed. I’m always rehashing the past, turning things over and over in my mind. I feel like I’m under constant scrutiny. I avoid group attention.

– Anonymous Vietnam Veteran



From The Mighty where they asked people what PTSD feels like. Here’s what they shared:

1. “It’s constantly looking over your shoulder and having difficulty trusting people… It’s not just something you can walk away from.” — Kathryn P.

2. “Triggers can come from anywhere at any time… a smell, a look/ glance, a vibe, a dream… how someone treats you. You are unable, as hard as you try, to turn it off.” — Mike T.

3. “The best description I’ve ever come across is the Walking Dead episode ‘Here’s Not Here.’ One character describes PTSD: ‘You saw it happen. That’s how this started, right? It’s all happening right in front of your eyes over and over. Your body’s here, but your mind is still there. There’s a door and you want to go through it to get away from it, so you do and it leads you right back to that moment. And you see that door again and you know it won’t work, but, hell, maybe it’ll work. So you step through that door and you’re right back in that horrible moment every time. You still feel it every time. So you just want to stop opening that door. So you just sit in it. But I assure you, one of those doors leads out, my friend.’” — Tara H.

4. “You know that feeling you get when someone jumps out and scares you and you are on high alert for a few minutes? That alertness never goes away for me.” — Holly M.

5. “It’s like you’re tidying your house before a dinner party. But there’s this one item that’s just out of place. The doorbell rings. It’s your guests. You just shove that item into the closet and tell yourself you’ll deal with it later. You start to do this every time. Filling the closest more and more. Saying to yourself that you’ll deal with it later. The closet becomes so full that it starts to creak. That’s your bodies way of saying ‘Hey! You got a lot of stuff to deal with! It’s time!’ But you keep thinking it’s fine. Out of sight, out of mind. You ignore the closet. Until one day it’s too much. The closet bursts. And everything comes flying out in weird and wacky ways. Panic attacks. Dissociative episodes. Depression. Anxiety. Flashbacks. Intrusive thoughts. And then you’re left lying on the floor with all the items that were stuffed into the closet, splattered around you. Forced to finally accept what happened. And forced to finally deal with it. Forced to clean up the items around you and find appropriate places for each thing. And then over time, slowly, you learn what to do with each item, and how to deal with each thing, uniquely.” — Nargis D.

6. “It’s like a sideshow ‘fun house;’ you never know what’s around the corner to screw up your day. Then you walk over to the house of mirrors and realize no matter which one you look at, it will never be who you truly are.” — Tash G.

7. “My nightmares when I’m asleep bleed into my daily life. At times after just getting up I’m unable to differentiate whether I’m awake or asleep. They feel so real, I even experience the physical pain in them. Then while I am at home if someone knocks on my door I could scream and start rocking back and forth.” — Will D.

8. “It’s difficult to explain. Sometimes it’s the feeling that something bad is right behind you. Every car door that shuts at night is something bad. It’s being afraid to go to sleep because you know the nightmares are waiting. No one can be trusted. I constantly feel like someone is behind me. It’s being so hyper-vigilant every minute, it’s exhausting. Certain places or a flash of something brings it all crashing back down on you. It’s feeling like every day you’re going to die, and sometimes wishing for death just to get away from the memories.” — Jennifer T.

9. “You’re constantly on guard. You can never rest without thinking about something. I get panicked at the slightest thing that wouldn’t bother anyone like loud bangs or someone’s footsteps, or someone calling my name and I don’t know where it’s coming from.” — Ross R.

10. “It’s like being trapped in a time capsule. Your surroundings change, but you’re forever in the state of your trauma — flashes of memories through all five senses, body memories, nightmares — it consumes your entire being and never by choice!” — Corey L.

11. “Imagine walking down the yellow stripe in the middle of a crowded street: it’s happy and sunny and everyone is doing everything great — but if you lose your balance or get pushed to the left side, it’s dark and scary. Few people know the left side.” — Brynn L.

12. “PTSD is a bunch of nightmares during the day. I lose grips on where I am, and I get lost in the memory. It’s like I’m not even where I actually am. It feels so real, and next thing I wake up and do not know how I got to where I am now.” — Nicole V.

13. “It’s like when you watch a scary movie and you’re on edge the entire time… except that’s how you live, all day, every day. You’re literally afraid of everything.” — Kate M.

14. “It’s like living in a slideshow instead of a video. Everything is choppy and confusing. There’s doubt, chaos and terror night and day.” — Adele E.

15. “I always compare it to the episode of ‘Spongebob’ when he was trying to remember his name and inside of his head people were looking through all the filing cabinets, but couldn’t find it so they started burning everything up and completely destroyed the memory bank… it’s like certain things trigger an episode whether it’s a smell or even a certain color. It causes me to panic.” — Shonte R.

They’re all sad and painful, but I have to say that #15 really sends it home for me. Here’s more from that same page:

16. “It’s like being hit by a car and you never see the car coming! It knocks you down, and when you try to get up another car hits you again.” — Minister W.

17. “It’s like a rubber band in that you can stretch so far out of your comfort zone, but once you’ve been triggered you fly back right to where you started.” — Rachel M.

18. “It’s like being afraid of the monster under your bed that no one else really believes is there. It can creep up on u at any moment, and the smallest of things can trigger it.” — Destiny B.

19. “Having PTSD for me is like being set apart from everyone else, finding fault with everyone you meet and walking a constant tightrope between fight or flight. The overwhelming feeling of guilt is hard to live with, and no one can convince you otherwise. It’s truly terrible. But there is always hope and always a light that never goes out so hang on in there.” — Jon A.


PTSD for Beginners by a Beginner

PTSD for Beginners by a Beginner

PTSD for Beginners by a Beginner

The mission of Once a Soldier doesn’t include helping with PTSD. As the founder, I specifically wanted to avoid PTSD because it was, and is, out of my league. There are many other charities and experts who you should turn to. Now, that seems like wishful thinking. Not all suicide soldiers or veteran suicides are PTSD-related, but many are. So I’m confronting this issue sort of head-on and I’m going to start at the beginning. If you’re looking for info on PTSD for beginners, join me in this brief blog and let’s get started.

We will cover symptoms, onset, diagnosis and where to get a screening.

A Google search on the second page found what I needed as a beginner: PTSD for Dummies. Perfect. Here are the highlights from that page, and trust me, we aren’t done with just that as a source.

Let’s start with what they list as the symptoms. As a beginner looking at PTSD, I don’t find these particularly helpful, but here they are:

Intrusive thoughts, emotions, or images: These may include vivid nightmares and/or flashbacks in which you feel as if the event is occurring all over again.

The Beginner in me says: I don’t have vivid nightmares or flashback, but if you have PTSD, I’m going to assume that the subject matter of these is war or combat-centric. If that’s the case, then that’s a big red flag. Here’s another one: was this person just discharged from active duty? Maybe I’m thinking of PTSD all wrong. It first entered my vocabulary when it because of a military issue from troops returning from the Gulf. Maybe my awareness of PTSD needs to widen out to include civilians who are maybe trapped in a horrible marriage, have trauma from childhood or a million other ways that the human psyche can be damaged.

Avoidance and/or numbing: For instance, you may avoid people or things that remind you of your trauma, feel emotionally detached from the people around you, or block out parts of your traumatic experience.

The Beginner in my says: We all want to avoid unpleasantries in our lives. We do many unsavory things to do this, such as working at a job we hate, a spouse we don’t love, or living beyond our means. As far as feeling detached, scroll through the posts and comments on social media and reading between the lines reveals that many people detach from society for a varitey of reason.

So far, this guide is okay, it is, after all, for dummies and not meant to be hyper-detailed.

Hyperarousal: Hyperarousal means being on red alert all the time, being jumpy or easily startled, having panic attacks, being very irritable, and/or being unable to sleep.

The Beginner in my says: Red alert isn’t what I’m on, I’m not jumpy, no panic attacks but I can be one irritable stinker from time to time. Sleep has never been a problem.

The Dummies go on to say that PTSD for Beginners needs to be aware of these symptoms:

You may also experience symptoms including body aches and pains, depression or other mental disorders, or problems with drugs or alcohol.

Okay, these are just flat-out not good and I’ve given up on the rest that follows in their post. The subject headers included how to beat it, truths about recovering, and meds. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of pills and the opioid addiction we find ourselves fighting needs to stay as far away from PTSD as we can get it. Soldier suicide and veteran suicide don’t need any help from monster opioid.

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More Detail from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Here’s a second source that digs a little deeper into the onset and symptoms. View this content on their site here. The following is also detailed in what a traumatic event might be, and it’s a lot of information, so I bolded the more basic things a PTSD beginner should know.

PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later.

The disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered

PTSD Diagnosis criteria that apply to adults, adolescents, and children older than six include those below.

Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation:

  • directly experiencing the traumatic events
  • witnessing, in person, the traumatic events
  • learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental
  • experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events (Examples are first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). Note: This does not apply to exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures, unless exposure is work-related.

The presence of one or more of the following:

  • spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events (Note: In children repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the traumatic events are expressed.)
  • recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events (Note: In children there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.)
  • flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring (Note: In children trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
  • intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events

Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders (i.e., people, places, conversations, activities, objects, situations)

Two or more of the following:

  • inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • persistent inability to experience positive emotions


Two or more of the following marked changes in arousal and reactivity:

  • irritable or aggressive behavior
  • reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Also, clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning not attributed to the direct physiological effects of medication, drugs, or alcohol or another medical condition, such as traumatic brain injury.


If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, take a simple first test with an online screening tool found here. You can print or save the results and share with your healthcare professional.

Final Word from Once a Soldier: PTSD for Beginners from this source isn’t making it. I get no real picture of the symptoms to look for and even then, the causes may or may not foot back to combat or anything that a veteran can get help with through the VA. I will continue to circle around PTSD for Beginners by a beginner because I owe it to the vets and myself to learn more.

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