Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Florida

By Dr. Laura Cloukey, Medical Director, The Villages Health Pinellas Care Center

Florida is known for its fireworks. On the 4th of July, there are bright explosive lights in the air throughout the entire day. At the various theme parks, they have fireworks every night. While fireworks are a beautiful sight for many, they serve as a trigger for others.

PTSD and its Lasting Effects

Most people have heard of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not everyone truly understands it. PTSD is much more complex than the average person is aware. This stress disorder can be caused by a traumatic event such as actual or threatened death, severe injury, or threatened integrity. The lasting effect of this includes avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, emotional numbness, and significant symptoms of increased sympathetic nervous system arousal. (Beidel, Bulik & Stanley, 2017). The sympathetic nervous system is basically the stimulus for the “fight or flight” reaction. People with PTSD are often fighting this reaction and experiencing emotions such as fear, helplessness, and guilt. They can suffer from intruding thoughts, dreams or memories that replay the trauma. They can also be easily triggered by a stimulus associated with the event, much like how fireworks can be a trigger for veterans.

PTSD can be categorized into two sections: combat-related PTSD and civilian PTSD.

Fireworks: Triggers for Veterans

PTSD can be categorized into two sections: combat-related PTSD and civilian PTSD. Combat-related PTSD can be more severe and has been better researched. The prevalence of combat-related PTSD is much higher than civilian PTSD with about 9% or higher of the US population suffering from it (Beidel, Bulik & Stanley, 2017). Many veterans have experience with this disorder whether a friend has it, or they themselves suffer from it. For veterans in Florida, the holidays are a time when they may be hyper-vigilant because a firework could trigger them at any moment. There are approximately 1,533,306 veterans in the state of Florida (Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs, 2016). Not all of these veterans have developed PTSD and most people who experience a traumatic event do not develop the disorder. There are a range of factors that are involved with the onset of PTSD. Depending on each person’s experience in the military, these veterans are dealing with triggers and stress that not many civilians understand. That being said, how can we help people with PTSD during the holidays in Florida, or at any time there may be a trigger?

How to Help. 

When a person suffering from PTSD is triggered, they need to ground themselves. A technique for this is to keep their eyes open, try talking to themselves or a trusted friend, get up and move around, and remind themselves where they are and that they are not in danger. If you are an observer of the episode it can be helpful to remind this person where they are and allow them to talk to you openly. Reassurance is key. 

Getting Help.

People with PTSD can treat their disorder in several ways. Medication such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) has proven to be effective in lessening the symptoms of PTSD. Therapeutic treatments such as psychodynamic therapybehavioral therapy (BT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are used in the treatment of PTSD. A CBT treatment of exposure therapy has shown positive results in PTSD. For example, virtual reality simulators are now being used to treat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal is for veterans and others suffering from PTSD to be able to experience their triggers, without being triggered.

Research is still being done to improve the quality of life of trauma survivors and lower the onset percentage of PTSD.

Research, Research, Research.

With the utmost respect for our veterans and others with PTSD, research is still being done to improve the quality of life of trauma survivors and lower the onset percentage of PTSD. With the proper support and treatment, people with PTSD can live without fear – and maybe fireworks can become beautiful to them once again.

References

Beidel, D. C., Bulik, C. M., & Stanley, M. A. (2017). Abnormal Psychology: A Scientist-Practitioner Approach, 4th edition

FDVA – Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. (2016). Retrieved June 04, 2017, from http://floridavets.org/our-veterans/profilefast-facts/

Last updated : 08.04.2017
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Written byDr. Laura Cloukey

Laura Cloukey, DO is Medical Director of The Villages Health® Pinellas Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. Hailing from her hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts, Dr. Cloukey attended the University of Massachusetts for her undergraduate studies and received her medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her internship and residency at Carney Hospital and Boston University. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Cloukey was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital system in Boston, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She relocated to The Villages to join The Villages Health to help build a novel and superior health care system that promises patient-centered care, while delivering informed, relevant care plans and better outcomes.

Coach Image

Written by Dr. Laura Cloukey

Laura Cloukey, DO is Medical Director of The Villages Health® Pinellas Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. Hailing from her hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts, Dr. Cloukey attended the University of Massachusetts for her undergraduate studies and received her medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her internship and residency at Carney Hospital and Boston University. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Cloukey was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital system in Boston, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She relocated to The Villages to join The Villages Health to help build a novel and superior health care system that promises patient-centered care, while delivering informed, relevant care plans and better outcomes.

The Villages, The Villages Health, America’s Healthiest Hometown, and their associated logos are trademarks of Holding Company of The Villages, Inc., and are used with permission.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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