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Large Celebrations May Trigger PTSD

Marine Corps members marching in July 4th parade
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht

Some service members or veterans won’t share the same excitement others feel when fireworks light up the sky. Large crowds, loud noises and the smell of smoke can aggravate symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“There is no shame in declining to attend fireworks displays,” said Cmdr. Angela Williams, acting director of psychological health clinical care at the Deployment Health Clinical Center.

PTSD triggers and reactions aren’t always predictable. It’s important to prepare yourself and know the tools available to help you cope.

“Practice techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises, keep noise-canceling headphones on hand, employ a buddy system, and watch fireworks from a safe distance,” she said.

The Real Warriors website provides tips to help you manage stress during public events.

If you forget to prepare before you leave the house, download the mobile apps Breathe 2 Relax or PTSD Coach to help you stay calm in stressful situations.

Finding events that are both fun and private can make celebrating more enjoyable for you and your family. Calmer, quieter ways to celebrate might mean creating new traditions. Family members might enjoy an escape from the bustle and noise, or a chance to travel during the holiday.

Resources

A quick way to get help at any time, even during the fireworks, is to contact the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020. You can also email or live chat. Health resource consultants are available 24/7.

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Editorial note: This article is an update of a story originally posted July 1, 2015.

 

 

 

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This page was last updated on: September 14, 2017.