My featured person in this column is “Maryanne,” the adult daughter of a former Marine who most likely has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Maryanne, 37, is a licensed independent clinical social worker with the training and experience to spot, diagnose, and treat PTSD. The problem has been her father won’t see a mental health professional.
Maryanne, from Virginia, said, “My father isn’t diagnosed, but needs to be. He’d probably never speak to me again (if I mentioned his name.) He has (PTSD) from Vietnam and refuses to talk about his experiences there. Honestly, I have no idea what happened to him. All he says is that he was a Marine.”
A mental health professional must follow strict criteria when diagnosing PTSD, so don’t try diagnosing on your own. Some elements (but not all) of a PTSD diagnosis can include: a person having been exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence; the existence of an intrusion symptom, such as distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks, or exposure to triggers; avoidance of anything reminding the person of the trauma; and a negative, permanent change in overall thought, mood, and/or arousal level.
“My dad struggles maintaining a job, and has trouble with authority and working for someone,” Marynne said. “My brother, who used to live with him, said my dad had lots of flashbacks that presented as night terrors. He would get up in the night and walk around the house and talk about things in Vietnam and ‘talk’ to people he served with. It was typical military stuff. He would bark orders and tell people what they needed to do. He’d say the government was monitoring everything and he needed to protect his property. When he awoke, he’d have no recollection of it.”
Maryanne’s parents divorced years ago. Her father has been emotionally distant towards his relatives. “There are times when he’s in a large group and it looks like he’s not there,” she said. “His eyes look vacant and he’s off in his own little world. Then he just wanders away and doesn’t tell anyone he’s leaving.”
As for advice, she said, “If a loved one needs help, try to get him (or her) involved in a support group or other resource. In my (counseling) practice, with most PTSD clients, rather than talk about past events, I try helping clients focus on learning triggers and managing symptoms, so (PTSD) doesn’t affect their daily lives as much.”