Fireworks can trigger PTSD in Veterans

VIDEO: Fireworks can trigger PTSD in Veterans

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Fireworks are a celebration for many, but for some it's a source of anxiety that brings back vivid memories of war. This is the case for some veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the U.S. Department of Veteran affairs up to 20%
of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD.

"As fourth of July is coming up, we want to be very compassionate about the use of fireworks," says Dr. Peter Tuerk, the director of the PTSD Clinical Team at the VA Medical Center. 

Military with PTSD, a non-profit organization, is selling yard signs that say, 'Please be Courteous with Fireworks." This is an effort to raise awareness about the effects of fireworks on veterans during this holiday season.

"It starts with the intrusion, the intrusive memory, that pops up," says Dr. Tuerk. "People get aroused, they don't like how they feel, and naturally they either push the memory right away or they avoid the situations that reminds them of how they felt."

Dr. Tuerk says pushing memories away makes PTSD grow even more inside. It's when those memories are faced that veterans can overcome PTSD.

"Traumatic stress memories are never going to be comfortable, but we can get it to the point where it's not cued up all the time, where it's kind of stored in a different part of the brain," says Dr. Tuerk.

Prolonged exposure therapy, that lasts about 10 to 15 weeks, can help treat PTSD. This treatment helps those face situations or feelings they want to avoid.

"It's been shown over and over again to reduce or eliminate PTSD," says Dr. Tuerk.

For more information about PTSD you can watch Dr. Tuerk's Ted Talk.