For many veterans, it is difficult to adjust to the normal life outside of the military. Most of these veterans face various mental and emotional challenges after coming from a rigorous process of combat. Because of these hardships, many may continuously feel disconnected from other people, emotionally numb, or close to exploding.
In reality, not a week goes by without a front-page story regarding veterans experiencing emotional traumas. According to a study conducted by anxiety.org, an average of 22 military veterans commit suicide on a daily basis (that is more or less 8,000 people per year!). Among those who come home, 30 percent of these soldiers develop mental health problems while 20 percent turn to drugs or drinking to cope with their disorders.
Among these mental health issues, one psychological disorder, which rarely gets attention, is panic attack. Periods of intense apprehensions or fears usually characterize panic attacks. These episodes often happen without warning and sometimes with no trigger. Surprisingly, they also occur even when a person is relaxed or asleep.
Symptoms Of Panic Attacks
Some veterans develop the symptoms of panic attacks in just a few hours or days following an event they consider traumatic. However, some symptoms surface even after months or years after returning from the military service. Panic attack symptoms include the following:
- Discomfort or chest pains
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Intense sweating
- Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Tingling sensations throughout the body
- Feeling detached from the surroundings
- Upset stomach
Panic attacks develop abruptly. They usually reach their peak within the 10 minutes from displaying the symptoms. Most episodes last for 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely continue over an hour.
Causes Of Panic Attacks
There are various reasons for causing panic attacks. The simplest way to describe it is through the concept of the fight-or-flight system. This system is part of the mind and body responsible for preparing an individual to either run or fight whenever they are threatened. It serves as an internal warning system which helps humans properly react in a dangerous situation.
In panic attacks, however, there is a misjudgment in the fight-or-flight system. It leads to the feeling that there is a threat, when in fact, there is none. This misjudgment usually happens to war veterans since they got used to an environment full of danger.
Steps To Recovery
To be able to cope up with panic attack episodes, one must engage with a series of recovery steps. Listed below are some of the action steps in overcoming panic attacks:
- Engaging in regular exercise has always been one of the essential recovery techniques in addressing panic attacks. It helps burn off the adrenaline and helps release body endorphins that can further boost someone’s move. It is recommended to work out for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Mindful breathing can also help an individual better calm themselves whenever experiencing panic attack episodes. Just take 60 breaths while attentively focusing on each breath.
- Loud noises, particular feelings, and selected smells may transport a veteran back into the combat zone. To avoid this, look for different sensory inputs which can help provide comfort to an individual throughout the day. It can be in the form of listening to calming songs, looking at family photos, or petting an animal.
- It is also recommended to join volunteering activities. This step is a great approach to reclaim an individual’s sense of power and at the same time, connect to others.
- Joining a support group can also help solve panic attacks. Look for other military veterans who are facing similar problems. Joining a group will help someone feel less isolated.
The good thing with panic attacks is that they are easily treatable. With the help of the actions steps stated above, these war veterans are indeed on the road to recovery in no time.