Post-traumatic stress disorder affects vets

Dr. Greenbrier Almond told the Buckhannon Rotary Club just how real post-traumatic stress disorder is for those who have experienced it, particularly for war veterans.

Almond, a native of Upshur County and graduate of both Buckhannon-Upshur High School and West Virginia Wesleyan College, served as the medical director of post-traumatic stress disorder rehabilitation at the VA Medical Center of Clarksburg. He currently serves as a member of the Upshur County Board of Education and as the consultant to the VA Medical Center for PTSD and traumatic brain disorder evaluations for combat veterans.

Almond said PTSD is so real that it may have lead to the suicide of some veterans even long after they have returned home from war.

“This is a real syndrome,” Almond said, adding that tramatic memories, withdrawal and overstimulation are three main aspects of the syndrome.

Signs of PTSD in military service members may include repeated and disturbing memories, thoughts or images triggered by something that could be as simple as a smell. Other signs could include angry outbursts, feeling jumpy or easily startled, being super alert or watchful, having trouble concentrating, having trouble falling or staying asleep and feeling like the future may be cut short.

A loss of interest in the activities that were once enjoyed, feeling as though a stressful military experience were actively happening again, trying not to think about the stressful experience, avoiding activities or situations that serve as reminders of the experience and feeling emotionally numb or unable to feel love for those close to you are some other examples of the symptoms.

Almond said that many veterans who return from war need to retreat for a while. Some will buy acres of land and set up a trailer in the center to remove themselves from the city. Almond said his graduating class would have a picnic reunion rather than meet inside a venue. He said about 100 or more veterans would gather at the back near the campfires.

“If they get too anxious they’d just slip back into the woods, quiet down for a little bit, and then come back in and join the campfire,” Almond said.

“We just have a great time, but we can’t count on them coming into the Moose Hall or someplace else with a crowd of us.”

Almond said the syndrome may have some connection to the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain that he said helps people learn not to repeat mistakes, particularly those mistakes that can be life-threatening.