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New Navy combat stress program

WASHINGTON, Aug 18, 2004 (DeploymentLINK) -- Under the direction of Navy senior leaders, a multimedia programóCombat Stress Reactions: Normal Responses to Abnormal Conditionsówas produced to encourage combat veterans to review their attitudes and seek assistance for combat stress reactions. The five-segment program gives advice to service members, their families and their commanders on how to identify combat-related reactions and what to do about them.

The demands and stressors of war can be traumatizing. Whether service members in a war zone serve on the front line or in a supportive role, they witness death, destruction, and suffering. Combat stress is not new. It was called shell shock in World War I, battle fatigue in World War II, and traumatic stress in the Vietnam War. Combat stress is a typical and normal response to working in a war zone, and it should not cause shame or embarrassment.

Step One: Recognizing Combat Stress

It is very common, normal, and expected for service members exposed to traumatic events to display combat stress reactions. These reactions can appear a few hours, days, or even months after the traumatic event. They include the following:

  • Physical reactions. Rapid heart rate, trembling hands, headaches, and chest pain
  • Cognitive reactions. Nightmares, heightened alertness, intrusive images, and difficulty concentrating
  • Behavioral reactions. Withdrawal, isolation, appetite change, and increased alcohol consumption
  • Emotional reactions. Anxiety, fear, guilt, grief, denial, anger, outbursts, irritability, and depression

Step Two: Coping With Combat Stress

Service members should not try to block them out (especially recurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks) or numb the pain with alcohol. Recommend coping strategies include talking, especially with others who have been through the same experiences; reading about trauma; engaging in physical activity; and practicing relaxation methods. Often these methods will reduce the severity of stress reactions, which should fade over time. If they persist, professional assistance may be required.

Step Three: Finding Professional Help

Professional help is needed when combat stress reactions interfere with service members' personal relationships, everyday lives, or job performance. The sooner assistance is sought, the easier it is to resolve the issues.

Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but with knowledge, patience, and professional assistance, the stress they cause can be managed.