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How to Watch for Signs of Trauma in a Combat Veteran

How to Watch for Signs of Trauma in a Combat Veteran

People in dangerous lines of work (such as the military, law enforcement officers and emergency dispatchers) are highly likely to endure traumatic experiences

Some people cannot hide their sadness or shock following a traumatic event, but other people may not show such obvious signs of trauma. The signs of trauma are shockingly high for combat veterans who are returning home, and the symptoms can cause major problems if left untreated. Everyone reacts differently following traumatic experiences, so look for changes in behavior to know when you should seek professional help. Keep a close eye on combat veterans when they return home to identify any abnormalities that indicate emotional trauma.

What Causes Trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma occur after a highly stressful event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope[1]. People in dangerous lines of work (such as the military, law enforcement officers and emergency dispatchers) are highly likely to endure traumatic experiences, but any event that leaves you emotionally or psychologically overwhelmed can be traumatic. It is not the event itself that causes trauma, but your own emotional response to that situation.

A number of risk factors make an experience more likely to result in trauma. Emotional trauma is more likely if an event has the following qualities:

  • Results in physical harm to you or others
  • Occurs unexpectedly
  • Involves violence or cruelty
  • Makes you feel helpless or vulnerable
  • Occurs repeatedly
  • Happens in childhood

Trauma can be the result of one-time events (such as an accident or violent crime), or it can develop over time. For instance, sexual abuse, severe illness and other long-term experiences may not trigger trauma immediately, but symptoms can be debilitating later on. Furthermore, if you have experienced trauma before, then know that you are at heightened risk of being traumatized again. Also, if you avoid treatment for your pain, then symptoms can get progressively worse and even lead to further complications.

Changes in Behavior Following Trauma

Traumatic events affect people in different ways, as it can cause a wide range of emotional, psychological and physical reactions. There is no correct way to react to trauma except to seek support in the weeks and months following the experience. The following symptoms suggest emotional or psychological trauma and the need for help:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability or anger
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling withdrawn
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Trouble concentrating at work or school
  • Feeling guilty about what happened even if you are not to blame
  • Night terrors
  • Cold sweats
  • Hypertension
  • Fear or paranoia of the event happening again

If you or your loved one shows these symptoms, then seek professional help as soon as possible.

Healing After a Traumatic Event

The only way to heal from trauma is to process it emotionally. For some people, it may take days or weeks to accomplish this work, but other people require months of extensive treatment before they show any signs of progress. In other words, everyone heals at their own pace, but, if symptoms linger for months at a time or interfere with your personal life, then seek professional help as soon as possible[2]. A trauma specialist can help you accept what happened so you can begin to heal emotionally. It may take time to find the right therapist, so be patient and keep searching until you find someone with whom you are comfortable. Healing may require you to talk about some difficult memories, so it is important that you have a trusting relationship with your therapist.

Until you confront and accept your feelings and memories, they will recur, which means your trauma will continue[3]. In that regard, treatment for trauma will help you process your memories and teach you to deal with strong emotional responses in better ways. You will learn how to calm down when you feel anxious, and with practice your anxiety levels will gradually reduce overall. Therapy will also help you learn to trust people again so you can repair old relationships and free yourself of your own distrust. To put it differently, if trauma has taken over your life, then treatment can help you kickstart the healing process.

What if Trauma Leads to Addiction?

Trauma leaves people feeling helpless and searching for anything to make themselves feel better. Drugs or alcohol may seem like an easy way to soothe pain, and they may help you feel better at first; but abusing opium to deal with trauma is a terrible idea. Substance abuse is a common response to trauma, but it can result in addiction and multiply the symptoms you experience.

If you suffer from trauma and opium addiction, then Dual Diagnosis treatment can address both issues at the same time. Addiction and psychological disorders like trauma both affect brain chemistry, and a relationship forms between the conditions when they occur simultaneously. Unlike receiving treatment for each problem separately, Dual Diagnosis treatment shows patients how these conditions drive each other, which means you can more effectively address them.

To find out more about Dual Diagnosis treatment, call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to help trauma survivors begin healing with professional treatment. Our staff can tell you if your health insurance covers inpatient treatment and even refer you to a facility where you will receive quality care. Give us a call today to start addressing your trauma and feeling normal once again.


[1] Traumatic Events by Jacquelyn Cafasso

[2] What is PTSD?

[3] Recovering from Trauma by Ellen McGrath