Understanding PTSD


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Does My Loved One Have It?


Something is terribly wrong. Things are not as they used to be, nor as they should be.  What has happened to the one I care so much about?  And why do I feel so affected too?

According to the National Center for PTSD, the symptoms of PTSD can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. For many it is hard just to get through the day.

All people with PTSD have lived through an experience that was severely traumatic, that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless.  For many, this results in changes in the brain and body.  It is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Signs of PTSD usually start soon after the experience, but they may not happen until months, years or decades later. They also may come and go over time. If the symptoms last longer than a few weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms for those with PTSD:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Disturbing memories of the trauma can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. It is common to have severely bad dreams about it. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. Reliving it seems so real…flashing back to the memory. Sometimes there is a trigger — a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:

-Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of blasts and bombs and artillery for a veteran.
-Seeing a car accident, which can remind a person of his or her own traumatic accident.
-Seeing something on the news about an assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped, or a childhood abuse.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the trauma. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

-A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes.
-A person who was violently robbed while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants.
-Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

3. Feeling numb

You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.

-You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
-You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy.
-You may not be able to remember parts of the trauma or not be able to talk about them.

4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:

-Suddenly become angry or irritable
-Have a hard time sleeping
-Have trouble concentrating
-Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
-Be very startled when something surprises you

5. What are other common problems?

People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

-Drinking or drug problems
-Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
-Employment problems
-Relationships problems including divorce and violence
-Physical symptoms

But you have come to the right place!  LOVE OUR VETS offers hope, practical help and support!


Welby O’Brien recently was asked these five questions in a television interview:


1)    Welby you have a background in counseling and you live with a husband who is a one hundred percent disabled veteran with PTSD.  What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder can affect anyone, and it results from exposure to a severe trauma such as an accident, assault, tragic loss of a loved one, disaster, a horrific event, or anything life threatening.  At that moment, the whole person goes into emergency mode – fight, flight or freeze survival – and gets locked into that emergency mode. And for the rest of their lives they stay locked into emergency mode at some level. So 24/7 they live as if the trauma could reoccur at any moment. And many continue to re-experience the trauma as if it were actually happening over and over again.

2)    Does PTSD affect veterans, or will it affect other people?

PTSD, trauma and disasters can affect ANYONE. The PTSD statistics are startling! Just in the U.S. alone we are talking about millions and millions of people. And the numbers just keep going up. The surprising thing is that it not only affects the person, but also profoundly impacts all the loved ones, and those who live with them. Children, spouses, significant others, parents, siblings, friends, are all deeply impacted.

3)    Does PTSD ever go away?

There is no known absolute cure for PTSD. As long as there are traumas and trigger reminders, there will be PTSD. It cannot be fixed, but it CAN be helped. And that is what LOVE OUR VETS (the book and support network) is all about: we CAN live happy fulfilled lives in spite of it!  That is our message of help and hope. My husband and I are living it, and I see it in many around me. There is hope and help. As hard as it can be, we encourage people to reach out for that help.

4)    What are the signs of PTSD, and how do families get help for those who suffer from it?

Thankfully, not everybody has all of these. A few of the typical signs might be an increase in anxiety, avoidance, depression, fear, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, numbing, severely disturbing dreams, emotional outbursts, relationship problems, sleep problems, withdrawal/putting up walls, substance abuse, and unfortunately sometimes suicidal thoughts/attempts.

PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal experience. The good news is that they can learn to thrive again.

For all the loved ones, I encourage you to go to our website www.LoveOurVets.org . There are two things that are crucial for those with PTSD and the loved ones: First, there are so many great resources out now (more than ever before!) for those with PTSD and their loved ones. It is so important to learn all you can and KNOW what help is available.  And secondly to connect with others for support. Our website and Facebook offer a lot of very helpful sources of information and support. And if you know someone who is struggling, encourage them to reach out for help.

5)    Welby your book, LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD is available through your website and wherever books are sold. You have started a national support group. Tell us how families can get connected to the PTSD Family Support Network through Facebook and your website.

I encourage everyone to go to the website LOVE OUR VETS.org and explore the helpful resources, not only for those with PTSD but also for the loved ones. And also on the website you can connect with a good support network. Maybe find a local group nearby, or if you don’t have one we can help you start one; minimally find online support. And if you are on Facebook, we’d love to see you at LOVE OUR VETS – PTSD Family Support. 

One last thing, perhaps the most important: As hard as it may be, I encourage everyone to please reach out for help. You are worth it and so are those you love. With PTSD every day is a victory!



Download “PTSD Basics” by Welby O’Brien:

Feel free to pass this on to all those it might help!




For additional support and information, see our list of helpful RESOURCE LINKS


NOTE: Do not use this information to diagnose or treat any condition without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health center.

For more information, see some online infographics:


USC MSWPtsd-awareness-day

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PTSD Support Links

Links for families and veterans living with PTSD