What is PTSD and how can
a service dog help?
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, refers to a group of symptoms which are common after an individual has been through a life-threatening or similarly stressful event. Symptoms may include hyper vigilant behavior (which tends to cause problems with sleep, inability to relax and difficulty being around strangers or in crowds), difficulty with relating to others and maintaining relationships, and depression/anxiety/anger issues.
While PTSD can be the result of many factors, the treatment of military veterans with this condition tends to present some unique challenges. These individuals have been trained how to deal with imminent danger and have witnessed firsthand the fragility of life. They were trained in groups (units, etc.) that worked, lived and suffered together and someone was always there to watch their backs. After leaving the military, these veterans are suddenly placed into a society that is not equipped to deal with their unique problems. These people’s brains have been trained to see danger everywhere and this doesn’t stop when they get home. In addition, vets have lost the support and camaraderie of the military and left feeling completely alone and helpless. Depression and suicidal ideation are incredibly common and many of these veterans feel completely abandoned by the country they fought for.
Dr. Michael Merrell, MD
Board Member, Service Dogs for Veterans