Innocent bystanders in the Boston Marathon bombing will face major difficulties overcoming emotional obstacles in the months to come. Chances are those exposed to the terrifying scene are currently, or will in the future, suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome – known as PTSD – a disorder caused by living through a traumatic event that causes one to fear for their life, or by seeing horrible things which impose a feeling of helplessness.
According to the National Center for PTSD, the symptoms can be terrifying and disrupt one’s life, making it hard to continue with normal activities. And, while the symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, they may not happen until months or years later.
Sadly, the aftershock of the bombing can activate severe symptoms of PTSD in hundreds of thousands of people already suffering from the disorder, even if they were not in Boston that day.
Welby O’Brien, author of the book “Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD,” says, “Unfortunately, even news of such a horrendous act can trigger reactive responses in those with PTSD, just by sheer knowledge.” She explains that how these explosions affect each person can vary greatly, saying, “The symptoms range from anxiety and increased hyper-vigilance, to withdrawal, relationship problems, isolation, outbursts of rage, depression, sleeplessness, flashbacks, increased substance abuse and/or numbing, and even to suicidal extremes.”
Welby, whose husband is a 100-percent-disabled veteran also suffering from PTSD, says, “The person affected by PTSD has been so traumatized that they operate 24/7 with the conscious and subconscious assumption that they may be attacked at any moment. They are continually on high alert for the trauma to happen again, whether it has been a year…or 40 years.” She adds that this state of hyper-vigilance is not only mental and emotional, but also physically based. Any outbreak will involve the whole person, and of course all their families and friends too.
Those who care for loved ones with the disorder cannot fix the PTSD, but according to Welby, caregivers should focus on staying grounded and mindful of their own personal needs while attempting to reassure and support the one who is traumatized. She likens living with someone with PTSD to a tsunami saying, “It is unexpected and can hit at any time.” Furthermore she adds, “It is not easy. Living with someone with PTSD requires a special heart and internal stability. The key is to love our vets while at the same time love ourselves, because when we learn to take care of ourselves, we have more to give and find fulfillment in our lives and homes in spite of the PTSD.”
Welby has started a PTSD Family Support network on Facebook where families are growing in compassion and understanding, while connecting with others who are living with PTSD. She says, “The network is a lifeline to find encouragement and hope from others who also walk in similar shoes.”
You can find the Love Our Vets PTSD Family Support network by visiting www.facebook.com and adding the words Love Our Vets PTSD Family Support to the address. For more helpful links and for Welby’s blog on PTSD visit www.LoveOurVets.org.