Friday, January 15, 2010


In 1945, Joe Chicco came home from the South Pacific with a chronic case of PTSD, though he wasn't officially diagnosed until after 1980, when the disorder was finally given a name. The next week's blogs will give information about PTSD.

All of us can remember an incident in our lives--a car accident perhaps--that set our hearts pounding and shortened our breath. At such times, our "fight or flight" mechanisms kick into gear, raising adrenaline levels, to help us deal with the sudden stress. Some people experience this fright reaction for a more extended period, for instance, the minutes it takes to escape a house fire, or hours of sitting through a bad hurricane, or perhaps over and over, during weeks spent as a 24/7 caregiver to a loved one.

This stress reaction is normal, and we need it to handle emergencies. But even after the incident is over, most of us don't sleep easy for a night or more. Many of us still feel remnants of that sudden adrenaline surge in our limbs and our guts, making us a little shaky and queasy, for days or weeks after. Some folks eat more as result ("I had a bad day and I deserve chocolate"), or drink an extra beer, or smoke a few extra cigarettes each day. After a while, we return to normal.

But when people go through a particularly horrendous trauma, especially if the trauma of its aftermath lasts more than a day--or when people are asked to work in situations such as combat where the fight-or-flight response is sustained at a high level over months or even years, the body's chemistry can actually change. This is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, now called PTSD.

Information taken from the National Center for PTSD website. Highly recommended.

More information is also available from the Military Veterans PTSD Reference Manual,