4th of July Fireworks – No Party for Veterans with PTSD

The country is about to celebrate it’s birthday, the 4th of July and while many people are happily planning outdoor gatherings and evening barbeques topped off with a healthy dose of colorful fireworks that sparkle and sizzle, crackle and BOOM, the men and women who have served this country with great love and commitment may be dreading this evening as a living nightmare.

For Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the 4th of July fireworks can trigger the emotional and physical responses commonly seen in PTSD.

This includes:

·      Exaggerated anxiety

·      Negative changes in behaviors and thoughts

·      Panic attacks

·      Heightened startle response

·      Flashbacks of traumatic events including nightmares.

·      Avoidance

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that the number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era. However, somewhere between 11% -30% of Veterans have PTSD in a given year. While exposure to trauma doesn’t mean you will get PTSD it does put you at higher risk. Clearly combat Veterans have higher exposure to witnessing traumatic events and are subsequently at a higher risk for developing PTSD.

Make sure you hug the people you love and whole-heartedly thank those who have served this country. For some we will never know the price they continue to pay. 

Many Veterans and others who experience PTSD may anticipate and prepare for the 4th of July by taking distance from the noise or using headphones to muffle the sounds. They may stay indoors and opt out of large gatherings.

As family members we can support the people we love by also being sensitive to these triggers.  Some Veterans may experience shame around this disorder and may not take the precautions they need.  Keep in mind, it’s been reported by Veterans that another big problem is the smaller random fireworks used in the days leading up to and after the 4th of July. The sudden unexpected explosions can re-trigger memories of life-threatening moments. 

For couples, families and individuals seeking support and relief from PTSD, contact a licensed therapist who specializes in trauma and has been trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  

For further information on EMDR:

http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=199

http://www.emdr.com/general-information/what-is-emdr/what-is-emdr.html