Thursday, March 23, 2017

Interview with a person who has experienced illness

     There are many diseases and illnesses that can affect anyone at any time. Some illnesses can be seen on the outside, others are psychological and cannot be seen. If it can be seen or not, it is still a great problem for the person suffering. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological disorder. After experiencing a great trauma or stress event, the mind has trouble registering what happened. Post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can happen to anyone. There is great stigma around post-traumatic stress disorder and the person suffering being seen as weak.

    The following essay is based on a conversation with a thirty-five-year-old male. This man is in the US Navy and has been for the past fifteen years. This man is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time spent overseas. He spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and Iraq. This man has been suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder for the past two years.

    People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder live a different life than most people who do not have the disorder. From the simple day to day things, to acting out even when they are sleeping, is different than people who do not have post-traumatic stress disorder. A day in the life of a person with post-traumatic stress disorder is very interesting, yet often very sad. The way they view the world has changed, and it often seems like there is no coming back for them. Learning about the way a person with post-traumatic stress disorder sees the world can be very insightful.

     There are many psychological and emotional changes post-traumatic stress disorder brings about. Feeling left out of a group of a group of friends or even singled out by family can cause the person with the disorder more depression and anxiety. The person with the disorder is already feeling alone, the last thing they need it to feel that from other people. It is hard feeling like because of a disorder you have no control over, people look at you differently. Just look at the facts that more than 200,000 veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and roughly eighteen of them a day commit suicide. A lot of the people with post-traumatic stress disorder have a hard time dealing with all the psychological changes that come with the disorder. The depression and anxiety seem to be the worst for some people. Having flashbacks often happens as well. Hearing a loud sound may often scare that person more than it would a “normal” person. Nightmares can also occur, and even be debilitating. Not being able to sleep because you are afraid of the nightmares ends up making all the other symptoms worse.

         With post-traumatic stress disorder, there are good days and bad days, sometimes it seems more bad days. Sometime when it is a bad day you end up taking it out on the people around you, even if you don’t mean to. Loved ones seem to get the worse of this disorder. Sometimes the smallest things can make a person with post-traumatic stress disorder lose their cool. One of the hardest parts in the nightmares. Often the person is waking up in a panic in the middle of the night. Sometimes acting out violently in the middle of their sleep. Something just as simple as a car going by the house at night and the lights shining in the window, can have a great effect on a person. Then because they become afraid of the nightmares, they try not to sleep. Then that leads to making all the other things during the day worse.

     Post-traumatic stress disorder greatly affects peoples’ social lives. Outsiders often think that people with post-traumatic stress disorder are ticking time bombs and can explode at any time. Some times that example can be true, but that is part of the problem, it is not always true. People who are aware that their friend has post-traumatic stress disorder will often treat them differently. People will often treat someone they know almost as if they are a child, like they need to be taken care of and everyone needs to watch what they say and do around that person. While there are times that people need to be more sensitive about some subjects being overly careful can give the person suffering with the disorder more anxiety. Going out in public with people is now a new experience. Small things can trigger memories and flashbacks. Driving down the road and seeing a certain type of car can even bring about flash backs. Driving past parked cars will also sometimes induce a type of anxiety, for fear that there is someone in the car about to shoot, or that the car has a bomb in it and will explode and the person passes by it. It is the simple things in day to day life that a person who does not have post-traumatic stress disorder will not understand.

     To help deal with these issues of post-traumatic stress disorder the military does not seem to do all that they can. The military will supply medications to help with depression, anxiety and sleep. The military will also do weekly therapy sessions. Even though the military offers therapy and medication, the military needs more education on post-traumatic stress disorder. There should be more training on post-traumatic stress disorder for the people going off to war and the service members that are staying state side. When the service members are coming home from war and have to go back to regular work, the people they work with need to understand the changed the other person is going through. Everyone in all level of the service need to understand the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in a person. A higher-level person needs to take into consideration the person with the disorders new life style. Doctor visits are a one to two time a week thing, and they need to understand the importance of those visits. A lower level person needs to understand that the person with the disorder might be having a bad day, and in a way, take it out on them.

      A lot of people with post-traumatic stress disorder self-medicate. Even though you may see a therapist and take prescription medications, it might not help. Sometimes even just the side effects of the prescription medications a person takes, makes other parts of their life worse. A lot of people with post-traumatic stress disorder turn to alcohol. People not sill in the military turn to other things, but in the military, it is easier to get away with drinking. It can start with a drink at dinner, then a few after that. Then you can feel like you need a few drinks to sleep. When you wake up in the morning all your problems are still there, and now you have a hangover, so you take another drink. It can become quite the problem. It also does not help that all the medication you take states to not take it with alcohol, but you do anyway. Then the side effect of the medication get worse. The person gets stuck in this cycle of just trying to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot even get down to the main causes.

     Health and healing can be described as the state a person is in. A person can be in good or bad health. A person can also be in different states of healing. With post-traumatic stress disorder, there are several different levels of healing a person must go through. Sometimes that starts off as physical healing, if they have an injury. Then there are different levels of mental healing. Talking with a professional, and getting on the correct medication is a good start to healing and improving ones mental health.

     Three of the most important facts about illness and healing are simple. Even though you cannot see an illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, it does not make it any less real than any other illness. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very serious thing and needs to be dealt with as so. The healing process is different for everyone. Healing from post-traumatic stress disorder will not happen overnight and might not happen at all. It is a day to day struggle and something that some people might have to learn to live with forever. Another thing about healing is the stigma around people with mental disorders needs to change. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have a hard-enough time in their own heads, they do not need people on the outside of it judging them.  “Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that's thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common” (Mayo 2014).

     Giving negative qualities to a disease or disorder is an example of stigma. An example of this is a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder is often viewed as a damaged or broken person. That feeling of being damaged leads to more negative feelings and shame that the person now must deal with. Military members have more stigma in regards to their mental health. Military members are viewed as strong, physically and mentally, and are supposed to be invincible. When a military member has a psychological problem, they are going to be less likely to say anything about it. The military member does not want to seem weak to their other service members and their families.

      Social and self-stigma that the military must deal with is a great problem. “The present research examined the stigma associated with psychological problems among service members returning from the United States peacekeeping mission to Bosnia. The results show that admitting a psychological problem in the military is perceived as much more stigmatizing than admitting a medical problem. Service members had more concerns about stigmatization and felt more uncomfortable discussing psychological problems than medical problems, and these feelings were magnified when service members were being screened with their units rather than alone” (Britt T.W. 2000). Any person serving in any branch of the military could be prone to coming down with post-traumatic stress disorder. The stigma connected to post traumatic stress disorder in the military needs to be talked about. More education about the disorder can help with the stigma attached to the disorder.

     In some ways, post-traumatic stress disorder could almost be a cultural disorder. Different cultures look and react to things can be different for others. One culture can be more exposed to things like shootings, explosions, and death. Another culture may not be as exposed to such things or not as often. Some places might have death and disease just be common and not as taboo as others. When a person who is not used to being in a place with the constant fear of death, that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder for the person. Going from a more peaceful way of life, and thrown into a completely different way of living can have a serious impact on a person’s life.


     Britt, T.W. (2000). The stigma of psychological problems in a work environment: Evidence from the screening of service members returning from Bosnia. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 1599-1618.

     Mayo Clinic Staff 2014 Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness

False beliefs about mental illness can cause significant problems. Learn what you can do about stigma.

Copyright © 2017 Kate Stap
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