Troops and veterans are often accustomed to hiding their pain from the rest of the world, from their peers and loved ones, even from themselves. They’re conditioned to put on a brave face amidst the most difficult of experiences. They’re taught to pretend that everything is fine, even when they’re in pain. Their work requires that they suppress their painful emotions, deny that they’re suffering, and avoid talking about difficult emotional issues. When troops and veterans aren’t forthcoming about how much pain they’re in, what are some signs we can use to identify when they are struggling?
Substance Use Disorder Among Veterans
A common sign is increased drug or alcohol use, along with attempts to hide their substance abuse. People usually don’t want their loved ones to know they have a problem, so they will go to great lengths to keep their dependence hidden. It can be hard to know when someone has increased their substance use, so it’s something to pay attention to and even have a discussion about if you’re concerned.
Mental Health Conditions Among Veterans
Another common sign is increased mental health issues, especially feelings of depression and anxiety. While troops and veterans might not readily disclose when they’re in emotional pain, there are some things we can pick up on – increased sadness, worry and fear. They may show heightened stress levels along with an inability to cope with the demands of their lives. They might have recurring nightmares, insomnia, or other trauma-related symptoms. They might be reactive, quick to react out of anger, or even hostile. They might be volatile and find it hard to control their emotions. They might appear to be all over the place, unable to be at peace or be comfortable with their surroundings. They might be uneasy, restless, listless, or easily bored. You might notice that they exhibit signs of nervousness, such as being easily startled, fidgeting excessively, or being unable to sit still. They might have excessive energy, or the opposite, struggle to have energy to get through the day. They might be lethargic and appear down and despondent.
We can help our loved ones much more effectively when we know what signs to be on the lookout for, to help us identify when they are struggling. There might be signs we won’t ever be able to pick up on, but looking at some of the more common, identifiable ones can help us support them and be there for them when they need us.
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