When a soldier returns from a war zone, he or she may take time to recover from the experience. The National Institutes on Health report that almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans have post-traumatic stress syndrome and about 20 percent of Iraqi War veterans are showing signs of PTSD. Because of this, there is a greater need for PTSD interventions then ever before.
If a loved one has started abusing a substance or is showing other signs of PTSD, then you may need to hold a crisis intervention to ensure that he or she seeks professional help. Educating yourself about the symptoms of PTSD, offering your support to a loved one and holding an intervention can help address the underlying cause of an addiction in war veterans.
Identifying the Signs of PTSD
The abuse of drugs or alcohol can be very complicated, especially if a loved one is a veteran and has served in a war zone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that a soldier can be diagnosed with PTSD if his or her symptoms persist for at least 3 months, it interferes with his or her life or it is causing personal distress.
If you are concerned about a loved one, then you may need to look for potential symptoms of PTSD before setting up an intervention for PTSD. The signs of PTSD include:
- Having nightmares or flashbacks
- Feeling jittery or stressed out
- Reliving certain war experiences
- Trying to avoid situations that are similar to the traumatic event
- Changing relationships, particularly when negative feelings arise without any clear causes
- Negative beliefs or feelings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
If you notice that a loved one seems stressed, anxious or paranoid after returning from a war zone, then it may be a sign of PTSD. You should also pay attention to behaviors before a loved to uses drugs or alcohol, since it may help identify the causes of an addiction.
Opening up the lines of communication can be essential before setting up a family intervention. The National Institute on Mental Health recommends that you talk to a loved one and listen to his or her experiences. Explain that you have noticed certain behaviors and that you are always available to discuss their feelings, concerns or fears.
Do not issue blame or accuse your loved one. Be compassionate and recognize that the symptoms and behaviors may be directly related to the trauma that occurred during a situation in a war zone. A loved one may abuse a substance or may behave in a way that seems odd, but it is often related to PTSD and it can be treated.
Hold an Intervention
Discuss the situation with loved ones who will be involved in the crisis intervention. Explain the symptoms of PTSD and encourage loved ones to recognize that the addiction or substance abuse is a symptom of PTSD and not the cause of the disorder. A loved one may be trying to use drugs or alcohol to cope with the flashbacks, lack of sleep or other symptoms that are associated with the disorder.
Get a professional interventionist involved before you hold the crisis intervention. You will want a specialist to help with the process because a loved one may become violent or may react in a negative way. An intervention specialist ensures that PTSD interventions are handled in an appropriate manner and can prepare the family for possible reactions.
Encouraging a loved one to seek help when he or she is showing signs of PTSD can be essential for his or her recovery. It is possible to treat PTSD, but you may need to confront a loved one about his or her behavior before he or she will be willing to seek treatment. Recognize that PTSD can contribute to substance abuse and that it may be necessary to tell your military veteran that you are always willing to listen and offer support.