It’s almost Independence Day and while there will be fireworks displays, sparklers and other pyrotechnics for the holiday, what many people don’t realize is that combat veterans might have an issue with the loud explosions. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common in those who have served in combat areas. The lights, sparks, fire and loud noises of a 4th of July celebration, are often very similar to memories many service members have of their military service. PTSD is difficult to deal with and treat because each patient has their own triggers and fears, however, fireworks can be very upsetting for many veterans.
While it’s not always possible to know if your neighbors have an issue like PTSD or other traumatic memories, but experts at the Veterans Administration, including Dr. Laura Gibson, acting VA Chief of Mental Health, want to make people aware that fireworks are often a trigger for traumatic memories and experiences. It’s not just about noise. The smell of burning explosives and the vibrations felt in the air from explosions can trigger bad memories of combat situations, since the brain processes the input of fireworks the same as shell explosions and the smell of burning fuel. This year, if you can, try to be aware of those around you and let others know of your plans to celebrate.