Does July 4th Trigger PTSD Episodes in Combat Veterans?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is very common among people who have experienced traumatic events. Sexual assault, domestic violence and armed combat are among the most common causes of post-traumatic stress, and the symptoms of PTSD can persist for years after the event has taken place.

What may be common occurrences to everyday life, such as the sound of thunder or the crying of a young child, could be a trigger for a PTSD episode, especially among war veterans. With the upcoming U.S. holiday, would July 4th trigger PTSD?

Understanding PTSD Triggers 

Anything that reminds the PTSD sufferer of what happened during a traumatic experience is a potential trigger. The trigger may be something heard, seen, felt, touched or tasted.

While the triggers themselves are usually harmless, they can lead to several significant and stressful symptoms:

  • Flashbacks – vivid recollections of the traumatic events of the past
  • Anxiety
  • A persistent “fight or flight” reflex
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Nightmares

Why the Fourth of July Can Be Difficult for Veterans 

Why the Fourth of July Can Be Difficult for Veterans - TTC CareOur veterans suffer disproportionately from PSTD. According to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimate, PTSD affects:

  • Approximately 31% of Vietnam veterans
  • Up to 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
  • 11% of Afghanistan War veterans
  • 20% of Iraq War veterans

For combat veterans, sudden loud sounds, such as fireworks, can be an unexpected trigger, prompting a veteran’s reflexes, causing a PTSD flashback and the “fight or flight” response.

It’s not uncommon during the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July to see signs posted on lawns that read “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” While many people realize how difficult the Fourth of July can be for veterans, it’s important to take these signs seriously and refrain from using fireworks in the area.

There have been incidents in the past where fireworks have caused PTSD sufferers to feel threatened and violently lash out at the people around them. In July of 2015, a Georgia veteran felt so distressed by the sounds of fireworks nearby that he committed suicide.

Helping Veterans on July 4th with PTSD

There are several things you can do to help the veterans near you this Fourth of July:

  • Helping begins with awareness, so if you notice any veterans or any signs posted in your neighborhood asking to be courteous with fireworks, remember them and do your best to be sensitive during your celebrations.
  • It’s not easy living with PTSD, so if friends or family suffer from it, offer support and a compassionate ear if they need company.
  • The Fourth of July is a celebration of America’s independence and the sacrifices made to ensure it. These themes surrounding the Fourth of July can be enough to trigger PTSD symptoms for some veterans.

Treatment for PTSD and Dual Diagnosis

Many people with PTSD who do not have access to support and counseling may head down the destructive path of self-medicating with illicit drugs or alcohol. This is dangerous because it creates a cycle of dependency for relief from PTSD symptoms while also preventing the individual from developing healthier coping strategies.

Whenever substance abuse runs in tandem with a mental health disorder like PTSD, it becomes a dual diagnosis case. These cases represent a large portion of all addiction cases and require specialized attention. It’s not possible to treat one issue at a time. Effective dual diagnosis treatment requires treating both the mental health issues and substance abuse simultaneously.

Overcoming PTSD and Addiction in Florida

TTC Care provides comprehensive, individualized treatment plans for every one of our residents at our southern Florida facility. Our reputable, dual diagnosis treatment program for people with PTSD and other mental health conditions, coupled with our comforting recovery philosophies puts the focus on healing the whole person, not just the effects of substance abuse.