The present illumines the past.

Live long enough and you’ll experience trauma. Trauma may result from a serious accident, loss of a loved one, devastating illness, divorce, financial difficulties, job loss, failure, victim of a criminal act, and abuse. Individuals built with shaky foundations—inadequate parenting, poor environmental conditions, physical disabilities—often become more vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than those whose life building blocks constructed a more stable, loving platform.

The cumulative effect of combat stresses, while similar in some respects to the types of trauma mentioned above, marches to a different drumbeat.  Combat stress-related PTSD is complex, and, while gaining more attention, is still poorly understood, even among many mental health professionals.

A wonderful book addressing these issues is Once a Warrior/Always a Warrior by Charles W. Hoge, MD, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.).

The following quote from Chapter 1 is reprinted with permission: “Neurobiological research has helped us to understand that PTSD is not an “emotional” or “psychological” disorder, but a physiological condition that affects the entire body, including cardiovascular functioning, hormone system balance, and immune functioning. PTSD can result in physical, cognitive, psychological, emotional, and behavioral reactions that all have a physiological basis. … studies have led to new treatments of PTSD, including psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications that target specific areas of the brain and body responses.”

“Colonel Hoge directed the Defense Department’s premier research program to mitigate the psychological and neurological consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan, wars, including PTSD, TBI, and sleep deprivation.”

He also deployed to Iraq and has seen the front lines.