A Note to Veterans!
AAD is mentoring the start of a new nonprofit to have veterans train service dogs for fellow veterans. It will be called VTAD or Veterans Training Assistance Dogs. If you are interested in being part of the effort, keeping track of its progress or to include yourself on a waiting list for a professionally trained PTSD service dog, send an email with the subject line:
VETS FOR VETS to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is PTSD?
According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, AAETS, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that follows a terrifying event. Often, people with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to. PTSD, once referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue, was first brought to public attention by war veterans, but it can result from any number of traumatic incidents. These include kidnapping, serious accidents such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive. The event that triggers it may be something that threatened the person’s life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed, such as mass destruction after a plane crash.
Whatever the source of the problem, some people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma
in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may
also experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being
easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have
trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive than
before, or even violent. Seeing things that remind them of the incident may be
very distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations
that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the event are often very
PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse or anxiety. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Individuals may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In severe cases they may have trouble working or socializing. In general, the symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was initiated by a person, as a rape, as opposed to a life-threatening accident.
Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A flashback may make the person lose touch with reality and reenact the event for a period of seconds or hours or, very rarely, days. A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is happening all over again.
Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD, or experiences PTSD at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms last more than a month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, and the course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition may be chronic. There are cases where the illness doesn’t show up until years after the traumatic event. http://www.aaets.org/article125.htm
How Do Service Dogs Assist with PTSD?
Reclusiveness: Service dog accompanies human outside the home
Night Terrors: Service dog wakes person or provides boy contact through the night (optional: turn on light)
Startle Reaction: Service dog defines personal space perimeter, alerts to presence of others (Command examples: “Pop a corner” or “Watch my back”)
Forgetfulness: Service dog makes person aware they have not taken their medication.
Dissociative Fugue: Disrupts the dissociative moment
Hyper-vigilance: Search a room for the presence of humans (Perimeter check)
Neurochemical Imbalance: Detects and cues. Invites interaction that stimulates calming hormones
Dissociative Flashback: Tactile stimulation mediates sensory re-integration and orientation to time/place
Emotional Regulation: Service dog is a therapeutic distraction
Sensory Overload: Service dog is an alternate focus. Cues for interaction when senses it
Social Withdrawal: Service dog facilitates interpersonal interaction
Lack of Insight: Service dog alerts to emotional escalation
These are just a few examples of what a strong bond and good training can do. Each service dog is trained to specific needs.