Fireworks could trigger PTSD episodes in veterans

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Independence Day is a source of pride for many Americans, and many show that pride through fireworks displays.

However, one class of Americans may not appreciate the displays as much as others. Approximately 11 to 20 percent of veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Though PTSD is not exclusively diagnosed to veterans of wars, the population of veterans is higher than the general population of Americans, which hovers around 4.4 percent according to the the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Resources.

For each person with this disorder, the stimuli that could trigger an episode can be very different. However, the loud bangs and bright flashes of fireworks could lead to an episode for some veterans whom have experience in combat abroad.

“It’s upsetting to most Veterans with PTSD. It’s something they try to avoid,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Director of the PTSD program at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System (VANYHHS). Dr. Fine said in an interview at blogs.va.gov that the reaction “can range from a startle to a full-blown anxiety attack and flashback of combat.”

All of this information is not to say that people should stop using fireworks altogether. A number of veterans affected by the disorder have found ways to cope with the noise, and have their own strategies to get through the holiday. Dr. Fine states that many veterans carry noise-cancelling headphones during the holiday.

However, if you know of any veterans in your neighborhood, or in areas where you’re looking to shoot off fireworks, it may help to talk to them before you start to celebrate.

It could mean a world of difference.

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