Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that can occur after someone is exposed to a traumatic event like combat exposure, rape or a serious accident.

More than half of the population experiences at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, but only a small percentage will develop PTSD. Some events, like combat or sexual assault, are more likely to cause people to develop PTSD.

The Veterans Administration uses five “AXIS” to evaluate PTSD:

• Major psychiatric illnesses, including substance abuse;

• Personality disorders;

• Physical problems; and

• Psychosocial stressors (homeless, unemployment, marital conflict, etc.).

Trauma symptoms include having bad dreams; having upsetting thoughts; experiencing flashbacks; having physical sensations such as heart racing sweating, and difficulty breathing; feeling like may lose control; avoiding thoughts, conversations or feelings when reminded of the event; trouble sleeping; being irritable; having problems with anger; having a hard time concentrating; and getting startled easily.

Individuals deal with PTSD in different ways. Some turn to religion and others to alcohol or drugs. Many believe they can handle it by working hard and a few seek help from mental health care professionals. Combat stress reactions can go away over time, but repeated deployment to dangerous places increases the chance of developing PTSD.

Also, the condition can lay dormant for many years and then occur. Many Vietnam veterans are finding this out.

The VA has a PTSD questionnaire and a screening test that you can take online, which should tell you if you have PTSD.

If you need immediate help, call 911, go to an emergency room or call (800) 273-8255. Another place you can get help is at the Fort Wayne Vet Center. Outreach is currently available in the following areas: Auburn, Plymouth, Angola, Hartford City and Columbia City. To reach the Vet center by telephone, call (800) 360-8387, ext. 71456.

If a veteran has PTSD caused by something that happened while he or she were on active duty, they should apply for service connected disability. The VA encourages veterans to fill out their applications online. However, due to the complexity of the procedure, they should get help from someone who is trained to fill out the forms. Whitley County has two veteran service officers who will do this at no cost.

It is best to call first to find out what information is needed to fill out the forms. Also, since it takes up to two hours to do all the paperwork, appointments are necessary. Veterans must have their DD214 when filing a claim. If necessary, the VSO will assist them in getting another DD214 if they can’t find the one issued when they were discharged. Call (260) 248-3189 for an appointment.


Dick Eckert, veterans services officer

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