Digital Exclusive: Fourth of July causes stress in PTSD victims

Digital Exclusive

For some of the fortunate United States citizens, fireworks on the Fourth of July signify a way to remember the bombs used by soldiers in all of America’s wars to fight for the country’s freedom.

But to those soldiers who returned from those wars, those fireworks might as well be the actual bombs they witnessed.

“You have this unexpected loud noise and this flash under the cover of darkness,” said Anne Rill, local recovery coordinator at the Erie VA Medical Center. “For combat veterans, and other veterans with PTSD, this is the type of stimuli that they may really respond to, and [it] may significantly impact their daily life.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder has been heavily researched, and Veterans Affairs has been working with soldiers who experience this for decades. But if those veterans are spending nights alone around the Fourth of July, fireworks can spark that trauma with flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, or negative thoughts, according to Rill.

Unfortunately, combat veterans are not the only ones who suffer PTSD or from the holiday celebrations.

“As soon as the first firework goes off, [my dog] Rue immediately starts panting and whimpering, [she’s] restless, she looks for me if I’m not right by her,” said Joelyn Bush, a dog owner who works in Erie. “Just immediate anxiety.”

According to veterinary technician Jennifer King of The Animal Clinic, nobody really knows the reason why dogs are sensitive to fireworks. She said it usually stems from some form of PTSD, but it is definitely not every dog.

“Some dogs will go for years and not have any problem. Then one year, they start having problems,” King said. “Some dogs, it doesn’t bother them at all. You don’t really know because you can’t ask them what they’re feeling.”

Luckily, certain items have been created by the pet industry to help with anxiety, such as thunder shirts, white noise machines, calming chews, and more. All of these can be found at your local pet store.

“You just learn to cope with it,” King said. “It’s not that often. It’s not like it’s happening every weekend. If you can prep for it, usually you can get through it.”

As for the soldiers, Rill reiterated that any combat veterans who want to know what the VA can do to help with their PTSD because of the fireworks, or just in general, can click HERE or call the Erie VAMC Behavioral Health Clinic at 814-860-2038.

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