After deployment, reintegrating into civilian society is a complex process. Depending on how long you have been deployed or what experiences you might have had during your time serving, being in your own home again can feel foreign. For veterans struggling with their mental health, turning to family and friends might not offer the same comfort as it once did. However, finding a community that can relate to the changes you have gone through is important.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Challenges in Veterans
Being in the military comes with countless challenges to your mental health that are truly impossible to prepare for. Many veterans have been through situations in a few months or years that many civilians do not ever go through in their lives. These may include the following:
- Being witness to mass violence
- Having to survive in war-stricken areas
- Being tortured or injured during service
In the military, the culture of social drinking to relieve stress or unwind after a difficult period can create a habit that follows you into your home life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety are among the more common mental health disorders that military veterans return to their homes with. These substances might help you feel relaxed enough to sleep, eat or manage situations that bring about anxiety, like large gatherings or loud noises. It can also ease the stress of reintegrating into everyday life.
However, using substances for this problem is much like using a paper towel to clean a flood. It is a temporary and often ineffective fix and can make symptoms worse. The only way to truly move forward is to work through these traumas. Sharing these traumatic experiences with other people who have shared the same experiences as you and have common ground can be healing.
Relationship Difficulties in Veterans
Veterans struggling with military trauma often deal with many other problems outside of their time in the military. After coming home, it might be difficult to find and keep a job and reconnect with friends and family. If you have been away for a long time, you might be coming home to people with whom you no longer feel you understand or relate. It is important to remember that change is a part of life.
The aggressive behaviors, mood swings, and detachment that can come with battle fatigue and PTSD put a strain on relationships with loved ones. When your trauma responses begin to concern or hurt your partners, relatives, or close friends, it may further add to the distance between you and them.
On the occasion that serving in the military resulted in an injury, it can be depressing trying to come back to your life needing new accommodations. Where you once felt an integral part of a community, you may now feel as though people pity you or treat you differently. However, despite what your situation may be, loving family relationships can be beneficial to people at whatever stage of their recovery.
The Importance of Group Therapy
Having peer support can ease feelings of isolation or loneliness. Sometimes just knowing someone understands the way you feel and the things you’ve been through can be a catalyst for change. Group therapy provides a much-needed safe space for veterans to facilitate healing.
While individual therapy is beneficial, group therapy sessions involve a group of people going through similar difficulties led by a mental health professional. You and other individuals can share and listen to each other’s distressing military experiences in a non-judgmental setting. Participating in group counseling may sound intimidating. However, it’s important to remember everyone in the room is also dealing with stressors in their lives.
Working with an empathetic mental health counselor will help you understand and cope with the experiences of the past. Group therapy helps you move forward and recover from the traumas in your life while building community along the way. Trauma recovery takes time, but effective treatment can have a long-lasting impact on the rest of your life.
Seeking Treatment for Veterans
Often, a veteran battling military trauma is also battling many other personal struggles. Getting help can curb both your feelings of depression and anxiety and also help you curb your addictions. As isolating as it may seem, you are not alone in the way you feel. Effective treatment can help you regulate these feelings and carry the burden of the impact of the military on your life.
For family and other close relationships, the best thing you can do if you are having trouble connecting with your veteran is to be there for them. There is a chance you may not be able to relate to them the same way anymore. However, you can always provide a listening ear and comforting presence.
Coming back home from the military is supposed to be a time to reunite with friends and family, but it isn’t always as simple as it seems. But, on the bright side, you do not have to do it alone. Overcoming military trauma takes time, and it is important to take the first step to becoming a better you. At Sober Life, you can take advantage of our flexible and personalized IOP (intensive outpatient program) and PHP (partial hospitalization program) treatment options to continue on your recovery journey and deal with the trauma of your time in the military. Call us today at (619) 542-9542 to learn more about our treatment options.