Ringing in the New Year with PTS

New Year’s is an exciting celebration, ushering in the beginning of a brand new year. It’s a time to get together and celebrate a fresh start with friends and family. The clock strikes 00:00 hours and the ball drops. Then the sounds of booms, pops. yelling, screaming, and fireworks fill the air. While this is  celebration for some, for others it can be an uncomfortable, triggering experience. The chaos and noise that accompany many New Year’s celebrations can bring on symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) in veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that 11%-20% of veterans who served in Iraq & Afghanistan suffer from PTS. In addition, PTS affects almost 30% of veterans who served in Vietnam and about 12% of Gulf War veterans. As one service member described in a blog post, “Fireworks aren’t fun for me. When I hear them explode in the wee hours of the morning I begin to shake, low crawl, hide under beds or in a corner, or scream with each concussive blast. It’s not pretty.”

So, how can we help ensure everyone has a great New Year’s? Here are a few tips to have a trigger-free New Year’s celebration:

  1. Avoid Fireworks Displays.
    Thankfully unlike Fourth of July, fireworks are not a ubiquitous part of New Year’s celebrations. Fireworks are not purchasable by the public in every state. As a result, states with restrictions on the sale of fireworks are likely to less susceptible to triggering firework displays, public or private. Delaware and Massachusetts have the strictest of these laws, banning the sale of all types of fireworks.
  2. Be Aware of Party/Confetti Poppers.
    These novelties are a classic part of New Year’s celebrations, unlike fireworks. The barrage of these “pop’s” can sometimes be reminiscent of gunfire. If you’re hosting a New Year’s party, avoid these. If you’re heading to a party hosted by friends or family, ask them that they exclude these from the celebrations.
  3. Noise-Cancelling Headphones.
    A pair of noise-cancelling headphones can help keep any unwanted noise at bay. They can block out the sounds of fireworks, near and far, and replace them with anything else you choose, whether it be music, TV shows, movies, or podcasts.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid To Leave.
    Sometimes, the best way to ensure a trigger-free celebration is to remove yourself from the situation. There is no shame in leaving a party if you’re concerned that it might trigger you. You’re putting your mental health first, and that’s crucial to continued recovery and progress when suffering from PTS.

Remember, if you’re experiencing the effects of PTS, you are not alone. Our Intrepid Spirit Centers are designed to diagnose and treat our military personnel who are combatting the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. Learn more about how the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund helps care for “our nation’s greatest resource”, our military personnel.

Posted on December 25 2017 in Blog

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