BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Officials with the VA Medical Center in Biloxi say they're seeing many military veterans who had a bad experience during wartime suffer after coming home, because they won't admit they have a problem. We're told that is especially true for those who served in the Middle East. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is affecting thousands of young men and women who serve their country.
"For our veterans who maybe experiencing PTSD, one of the first things that we're going to look for is what we call re-experiencing," Dr. Kara Vick explained. "We want to know if they are potentially having thoughts about the event, or potential nightmares, or even what we call flashbacks."
Dr. Vick is the Assistant Clinical Coordinator of the Psychosocial Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program at the Biloxi VA.
"I work for the residential program, and when veterans come to our program, we look towards identifying what they are really doing well. We try to build off of their strengths and we also look towards what we can enhance in them. We like to teach coping skills first with a lot of psycho education of what PSTD is, because knowledge is quite powerful with this disease."
Vicki Yanen enlisted into the United States Army in 1985 and served through 1991.
"I was in the Middle East in 1990 and '91 for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm," Yanen said. "For nine years, from 1991 until 2000, I had major issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I did not know that was what was wrong with me. I just thought that I was going crazy. I was very confused. I was very ashamed."
She said any veterans who have these PTSD symptoms should seek help immediately.
"Nightmares. Day time flashbacks. If you start to isolate from family and friends. Depression, high anxiety. You may hear a loud noise and have an extreme startled reaction to it. Extreme paranoia. Constantly having to check your home, make sure your house is locked. You may even be afraid to leave your home."
Yanen said it took her nine years before she decided to go to the VA looking for relief from her mental disease.
"The sooner you begin treatment, the better off you're going to be. You do not want to wait 10 or 20 years and have your symptoms get worse or have turned to substance abuse, drugs and alcohol. All you're doing is self medicating to eliminate the pain that you're feeling."
Dr. Kara Vick agrees saying, "We would encourage them to immediately begin speaking with their doctor, their physician or they can choose to come to the Mental Health Clinic. We also have Vet Centers that are available. Many our veterans chose a spiritual course. We offer chaplain services."
Dr. Vick estimates the recovery rate for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is between 70 and 80 percent.
"I would say that we like to define recovery from PTSD from the veteran's terms, not ours." She added, "So many veterans do go on to experience what we consider recovery, which is meeting their goals and treatment where they can return to a level of functioning that they would like to experience again."
Anyone looking for help can contact the VA Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or check out the web sites below.