Independence Day celebrations can trigger symptoms for some military vets. The sound of fireworks can remind them of the sound of gunfire. For those with PTSD, sensory memories like sounds, smells, or even feelings in their gut may invoke reminders of trauma and cause symptoms to arise in a particular moment.
Difficulties can go Beyond the Fireworks.
With respect to Independence Day, the anticipation of big crowds and loud celebrations can fill a veteran with dread before the holiday even arrives. In response, people grappling with PTSD may further isolate themselves to avoid being placed in an environment that’s out of their control and causing trepidation.
Struggling with PTSD.
A misconception about PTSD is that it always involves flashbacks. In reality, it’s common that the memory brings anxiety, sadness, or a desire to avoid.
PTSD isn’t the Same for All Veterans.
Working with a healthcare provider, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, is a critical part of identifying “triggers” and understanding how to tame them. Antidepressant medications are available to help treat PTSD symptoms, but they may not always work well for veterans who have chronic or severe symptoms.
How to Help.
It’s important for loved ones and caregivers to understand that a veteran’s unique experience in situations may be quite different from their own. Have compassion for that understanding. Try not to force a Veteran into situations where they may feel uncomfortable, and check in with them if you sense something is off.
When It Comes to Fireworks.
Silent fireworks that produce little to no noise can also be sought out for small gatherings. They can also benefit children with autism, survivors of gun violence, pets, and wildlife. Drone light shows are another option. They have amazing light displays just like fireworks, but replace the loud explosions with music.
Friends and family should know what “triggers” a veteran, employing breathing techniques and learning the signs when it’s time to take a break from a situation. If a veteran doesn’t like large groups, tell the host that you may need to leave early if it gets crowded. Limiting alcohol consumption can help avoid a situation as well.