Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among returning military personnel, though it is not often discussed. That may change after last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy entitled “Elevator love Letter.”
Owen Hunt became head of trauma at Seattle Grey’s Hospital after receiving an honorable discharge from the army. Although Owen returned physically intact, his co-workers are beginning to see that he did not escape the war unscathed.
In the episode, Dr. Hunt has a nightmare that is triggered by the rotating blades of the ceiling fan in his girlfriend Cristina’s bedroom. Cristina is awakened by Owen choking her aggressively. Owen awakens, feeling confused, disturbed and ashamed.
His co-worker believes that he is suffering from PTSD. Common symptoms include memory loss, depression and anger. People suffering from PTSD continue to experience disturbing effects caused by the event, which often occur in the form of recurrent dreams or nightmares.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nightmares tend to be the most disturbing for people with PTSD. In these dreams they may relive the event in a way that seems shockingly real.
Most people with PTSD report having disturbed sleep. It can be very hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is known as “adjustment insomnia.” The lack of restful sleep can make feelings of anxiety, anger and depression even worse.
A severe case of PTSD may need to be treated with intensive counseling by a trained therapist. Some forms of cognitive behavioral therapy may also improve sleep. The short-term use of medications also may give PTSD suffers temporary relief.