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Post Traumatic Stress in Vietnam

Essay by review  •  February 16, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,222 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,028 Views

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Post Traumatic Stress in Vietnam Veterans

For more than twenty years, Patricia Dietz, a wife of a Vietnam veteran, has suffered along with her husband the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. She has stated that, "It has changed everything; it has affected the rest of his and her life." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when a person, in this case a veteran from Vietnam, is haunted by his memories of war and death so badly that it affects not only the rest of his life, but others close to him as well.

Any time there is a traumatic event, physical danger, or threat or personal danger, this disorder is able to appear in ones' life (USA Today Magazine). "A key factor is the persons' response to this event, whether it happens to them or they are witnesses to feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror" (USA Today Magazine). "To be classified as PTSD the symptoms must last longer than one month, and usually appear within six months to a year after the event" (USA Today Magazine). Jim Dwyer describes Traumatic memories as "frozen in time, waiting to thaw" (Block, Norris). "PTSD has become a common condition among the armed forces as well as the police, and it has spread throughout society" (Fitzpatrick). "After Vietnam, PTSD appeared and was rapidly taken over from the veterans" (Fitzpatrick).

There are a large number of symptoms of PTSD. The Veterans symptoms can be identical to those symptoms experienced when the actual trauma was occurring (Panzarino). "[symptoms include] May be prone to insomnia, irritability, or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, and an exaggerated startled response when shocked" (USA Today Magazine). Michael Wheeler, a Vietnam veteran, is divorced because of PTSD, he was having thoughts of suicide, he couldn't handle life, he thought he was going crazy (Block, Norris). More symptoms are night terrors (dreams), flashbacks, and recurrent/intrusive thoughts of traumatic events (USA Today Magazine). "Many PTSD sufferers develop depression and anxiety or obsessive/compulsive disorder, in addition to alcohol or drug problems" (USA Today Magazine).

"Of all the Wars in which Americans have fought Vietnam was without a doubt the one in which soldiers experienced the greatest psychological difficulties" (Welsh 58). In the Vietnam war the enemy didn't have a uniform, they could be hidden in with some of your allies this caused a lot of confusion and led to the saying "I wasn't really sure what was going on," and is probably the key reason why there are so many PTSD sufferers (Welsh 58). It takes a "trigger" to start a flashback, something to make the person remember their horrible memory, gunshots or planes flying over (USA Today Magazine). Most PSTD Veterans try to remain as far away as possible from these "triggers." These veterans' memories are horrendous, problematic, and devastating (Block, Norris). An anonymous veteran stated "Sometimes, my head starts to replay some of my experiences in Nam. Regardless of what I'd like to think about, it comes creeping in. It's so hard to push back out again. It's old friends, their faces, the ambush, the screams, their faces (tears)... You know, every time I hear a chopper (helicopter) or see a clear unobstructed green tree line, a chill goes down my back; I remember. When I go hiking now, I avoid green areas. I usually stay above timber line. When I walk down the street, I get real uncomfortable with people behind me that I can't see. When I sit, I always try to find a chair with something big and solid directly behind me. I feel most comfortable in the corner of a room, with walls on both sides of me. Loud noises irritate me and sudden movement or noise will make me jump." (Goodwin 4). Michael Wheeler said, "I have constant flashbacks, nightmares .... All the people are killed, dead burnt bodies" (Block, Norris).

PTSD can ruin a veterans' relationship with family and friends. An anonymous veteran stated "My marriage is falling apart, we just don't talk any more" also "I really don't have any friends and I'm pretty particular about who I wasn't as a friend" he also stated "My wife is talking about leaving. I guess it's no big deal. Bit I'm lonely. I really don't have anyone else" (Goodwin 3) "At age 58, Larry Peterson, a disabled Vietnam veteran, thought he would be in prison" (Pettypiece). Many PTSD Vietnam veterans have rage problems. "The veterans rage is frightening to them and to others around them. For no apparent reason, [it seems], many will strike out at whomever is near. Often it is because of a flashback in which the veteran is surrounded by Vietnamese, and the veteran tries to defend himself." (Goodwin

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