Winning the War Within: High Anxiety Hits US Soldiers
Almost always, the leading stories in the evening news are about the daily tragedies in Iraq. News anchors, highlighted by graphic images of the war, report about mounting pressures of serving in the frontlines. From roadside bombs, to encounters with the alleged Iraq-based Al Qaeda partisans, to fiery ambuscades — the constant threat posed by unseen enemies have been hounding American troops since Day One of the invasion, or what others prefer to call the liberation of that country. More than a million US personnel have been sent to Iraq, with a third of that number posting at least two tours of duty. Amidst the mounting call to have the troops return home, those who actually have to do the fighting try to exercise the will to win, not because of the politics, but because they need to survive in order to gain the victory.
For others, the cause of anxiety is not just the dangers of being out on combat patrols or missions in enemy-held territory. The loneliness of separation from family and loved ones can be an emotionally draining situation, whether one is in war or not. While facilities have been put in place to allow soldiers on break to call their families and friends, these do not seem to make up for the lost time. Missed birthdays, anniversaries, and even the burial of a parent or close relative only add up to the painful detachment of the soldiers from being a normal part of the lives of those most important to them. It is not unusual to hear of stories of soldiers who celebrated the birth of the first baby, not in the delivery room, but in some Army tent in the middle of the desert, thousands of miles away from home. Others were deployed to Iraq just a few days after getting married, a situation that certainly puts an early strain on newlyweds who need to have a strong foundation for their marital relationship.
Those who survive the tour of duty are able to get back to their normal lives out of the Army. They choose not to talk about their experience in the war. Most would rather forget the war to focus on getting a job and to go back to the lives they led before they entered the Army. However, many ex-soldiers are still struggling to survive the war long after they have left the deadly streets of Baghdad.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 12 percent to 20 percent of all US servicemen and women who were deployed in Iraq suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It is a psychological condition that is brought about by witnessing or being exposed to a traumatic event. Some symptoms of PTSD include depression, memory problems, isolation, emotional “numbness”, helplessness, and other signs of distress. Cases of marital problems and job instability have also been associated with PTSD sufferers. The high anxiety that was mainly a result of their deployment in Iraq has left PTSD patients unable to relate to other people, even to those closest to them. Others reported feeling a tremendous sense of guilt especially for the deaths of civilians caught in the middle of the armed conflict. The range of adverse effects of PTSD can be mild to severe emotional distress. Some with serious cases of this disorder are already emotionally and physically dysfunctional.
Emotional healing is a difficult but necessary process that every PTSD patient must go through. To assist those diagnosed with the disorder, the Army had already organized small group therapy sessions and regular psychiatric consultations. Other forms of interventions to address PTSD include:
– Individual therapy
– Family education and therapy
– Social rehabilitation therapy
– Medical Treatment
In cases where psychiatric counseling is no longer effective, PTSD patients may be given anti-anxiety medication to help alleviate the symptoms of the disorder. While some improvements have been seen in ex-soldiers who volunteered to undergo counseling, a growing number of traumatized men and women who came home from Iraq have yet to access information and services they need for their psychological health. Winning the war against sadness and trauma is battle that all PTSD patients must win if they ever hope to really “get out of Iraq.”