As Independence Day is upon us, many are celebrating the wonderful country we live in and gratefulness for the freedoms we have. You may be enjoying picnics, parades, and other activities, as well as a day off from work! By all accounts, July 4th is a festive day that many Americans honor and enjoy. Though as the saying goes, freedom has not come easy, and we owe much thanks to our active duty military and veterans who have worked and fought hard to secure and sustain the United States of America. As you celebrate the July 4th holiday, please keep in mind that for many military service members and veterans who have PTSD, as well as other survivors of trauma, this holiday is one which produces much distress and in some cases, is dreaded.
For those who are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), July 4th can be incredibly nerve-wracking due to the one thing which many of us look forward to: fireworks. In the world of psychology and trauma-focused treatment, we call the jolting and distressing reaction to these and other loud noises a “startle response.” A startle response can lead a person to jump at loud and unexpected noises, increase their anxiety, and perhaps send their body into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
In the case of those who have served in a combat zone, the sound of fireworks can also be a strong reminder and a significant trigger. Fireworks can be loud and unexpected noises that remind veterans of gunfire or explosions they experienced in combat. While to you and I fireworks are beautiful displays of celebration, for those with PTSD, fireworks can lead to an unbearable amount of distress.
This may be difficult to understand if you have never been in combat, don’t know anyone who has, or don’t know anyone who struggles with PTSD. But this July 4th, please be mindful of those around you who may be struggling with PTSD. Most individuals with PTSD do well with planned fireworks as they are able to anticipate when they will start and can mentally prepare for their occurrence, which takes away the startle factor and the need for the physiological fight or flight reaction.
As a courtesy to military and veterans who may be struggling with PTSD, don’t set off fireworks late into the night (and especially in the middle of the night). In general, unplanned/unscheduled fireworks are those that create the most distress. If you live near a veteran, please be extra mindful of the impact unexpected fireworks may have on that person (particularly at night when they may be asleep).
Tampa Therapy would like to wish everyone a happy and safe July 4th holiday! We also want to emphasize that if you are struggling with PTSD (and find yourself dreading the fireworks), there are effective therapies that can greatly help reduce and possibly eliminate PTSD symptoms. We would love to work with you to help you regain your quality of life. Give us a call to start your journey to living better.