There is nothing I enjoy more than hearing from readers, and it's been a privilege to hear from our Vietnam-era Veterans and their family members. The number one question that I'm hearing from Vietnam-era Veterans is, "can I recover from PTSD even if I've been dealing with my symptoms for decades?"
The answer is unequivocally yes. The data are clear that evidence-based treatments work for Vietnam-era Veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress. To access studies, I recommend that you do a Google Scholar search with the terms Vietnam Veterans, PTSD treatment, and National Institutes of Health.
But I think it's important to scratch below the surface on this topic and talk about why PTSD symptoms can increase with age. This is going to be uncomfortable, but it's important:
- Criterion C of PTSD is avoidance, and this means that we will go way out of our way to avoid anything that reminds us of our traumatic experiences. When we retire from work or are done with child raising responsibilities, we have a lot more bandwidth and time to think. We also have fewer distractions from memories.
- As we age, sometimes we experience medical problems that make us feel like we're not as strong as we once were, and this feeling of vulnerability can unexpectedly trigger our PTSD symptoms.
- When we get older, a lot of us put down alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, this can be a go to coping mechanism for our PTSD symptoms. If we don't have another healthier way of coping to replace drugs or alcohol, it can make our PTSD symptoms seem worse.
If you're experiencing PTSD symptoms for the first time in retirement, you're not going crazy or senile. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Here's what I need you to know: it's never too late to get help for chronic PTSD.
Evidence-based treatments, like prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and EMDR, have been clinically proven to help, and there are more resources available than ever thanks to our Vietnam Veterans who ensured that Vets of the current era weren't screwed over the way they were.
I encourage you to learn more about your PTSD symptoms and available treatments. We've created a Free Workbook to help you identify your symptoms so that you can make an informed decision to reclaim your life from PTSD and Moral Injury.