Monday, February 18, 2013

PTSD Does Not Make You A Murderer

Recently, with the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and the killing of decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in Texas, the focus on mental health and gun ownership is front and center in the news.

On February 3rd, 2013, Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL credited with the largest number of confirmed sniper kills, was one of two people fatally shot at a North Texas shooting range Saturday, Texas Highway Patrol confirmed to Fox News.

Eddie Ray Routh of Lancaster was arraigned on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, at the shooting range about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Capt. Jason Upshaw with the Erath County Sheriff's Office said Routh used a semi-automatic handgun, which authorities later found at his home.

Upshaw said. Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Routh was unemployed and "may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military himself," but he didn't know if Routh was on any medication.

The U.S. military confirmed Sunday that Routh was a corporal in the Marines, serving in active duty from 2006 to 2010. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010. His current military status is listed as reserve.

Routh is being held on $3 million bond.

Bryant said the trio went to the shooting range around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. A hunting guide came across the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield around 5 p.m. and called 911.

After the shootings, Routh left the shooting range in Kyle's black pickup truck, Bryant said, first going to his sister's home in Midlothian, where he told her and her husband what he had done. The couple called local police.

Routh arrived at his home in Lancaster, about 17 miles southeast of Dallas, at about 8 p.m. Police arrested him after a brief pursuit and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.

Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found, told the Associated Press that Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the range. Littlefield was Kyle's neighbor and "workout buddy," Cox said.

"What I know is Chris and a gentleman -- great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield -- took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them," Cox said.

Chris Kyle's nonprofit, FITCO Cares, provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

Please understand, what I am about to explain is factual.

If killer Eddie Ray Routh does indeed suffer from PTSD, then it must be understood that his having PTSD should not be used as an excuse nor as an explanation for his committing murder.

Fact is, having PTSD does not make you a murderer!

A Justifiable Fear Of Losing One's Rights

Out of what took place there in Texas and up in Connecticut in December of last year, a national debate on gun violence and mental health is presently taking place.

And yes, President Obama's reaction to the horrific event that took place in Connecticut is on the minds of a lot of gun owners around the country. Americans are worried about his over-reacting.

President Obama wants, among other measures, to institute a Gun Ban, create a National Gun Owner Data Base of law abiding citizens who are exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, and he wants to forbid anyone who has sought mental health assistance from owning firearms.

The government likes to group people, and they see those with symptoms of PTSD as a group that should be restricted from owning guns.

Now let's understand what that means. If President Obama gets his way, then everyone who has PTSD, everyone with some sort of of anxiety disorder, will be restricted from owning guns in America.

That in turn means that an estimated 24.4 million Americans would automatically lose their 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Yes, that's how many Americans suffer from some anxiety order.

PTSD is an Anxiety Disorder.

There are several recognized types of anxiety disorders, including:

Panic disorder: People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or "going crazy."

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions. An example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands.

Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.

Specific phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.

Generalized anxiety disorder: This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) : PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster.

It's All About Trauma

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which there was the potential for or actual occurrence of grave physical harm.

Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, and military combat.

People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal, may experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury can increase a person’s anger and hostility and diminish his or her self-control. But the link between those disorders and outright violent behavior is weak and hard to pin down with certainty.

Symptoms of PTSD often are grouped into three main categories, including:

Reliving the trauma: People with PTSD repeatedly relive the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary date of the event.

Avoiding people places and reminders: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind him or her of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed.

Increased arousal: People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and may or may not make some sufferers emotionally numb.

They also may have excessive emotions; problems relating to others, including feeling or showing affection; difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being "jumpy" or easily startled.

The person may also suffer physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea.

And No, PTSD Is Not Just A Veteran Thing!

Most people who experience a traumatic event will have reactions that may include shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt. It is common for every one of us to have these reactions.

These reactions are common; and for most people, they go away over time.

For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life. It can be so intense that it becomes a quality of life issue.

People with PTSD have symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as before the event occurred.

Fact is, women who are rape victims are the number one sufferers of PTSD in America.

It is a fact that almost one-third (31%) of all rape victims develop PTSD sometime during their lifetime, and more than 1 in 10 rape victims (11%) still has PTSD today.

Rape victims were 6.2 times more likely to develop PTSD than women who had never been victims of any crime (31% vs 5%).

Rape victims were 5.5 times more likely to have current PTSD than those who had never been victims of any crime (11% Vs 2%).

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are approximately 96.3 million adult women in the United States age 18 or older.

If 13% of American women have been raped and 31% of rape victims have developed PTSD, then 3.8 million adult American women have had rape-related PTSD.

If 11% of all rape victims have PTSD, then an estimated 1.3 million American women have PTSD right now.

And yes, if in fact 683,000 women are raped each year, then we know that approximately 211,000 will develop PTSD annually.

Under President Obama's plan, if any of those women get mental heath assistance - then they will lose their rights to own a firearm for protection.

How About First Responders?

Yes, while some folks think PTSD is just a military or veteran thing - it's certainly not. In fact, if you look at the numbers, First Responders have the second highest incidents of PTSD symptoms.

Fact is that by the mere nature of their occupation, their work, their duty, their day in and day out responsibilities Police, Fire Fighters, EMT, Paramedics, ambulance drivers, are all intrinsically likely to have PTSD.

It is simply a fact because they are confronted with traumatic events where they have to witness and manage death and suffering from crime and accidents. In many many instances First Responders can also be put at considerable direct risk of injury or death simply because of the nature of their job.

Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes those risk occupations such as First Responders, combat veterans, survivors of physical and sexual assault, physical and mental abuse victims, those involved in car accidents, work related accidents, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and many other serious events.

Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Believe it or not, some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. It is also believed that the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one can also cause some level of PTSD.

General PTSD Stats

Here are some statistics on PTSD. And yes, some of these statistics may surprise you.

•70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people.

•Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that’s 31.3 million people who did or are struggling with PTSD.

•An estimated 8% of Americans – that’s 24.4 million people – have PTSD at any given time.

•An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men.

•Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience 60 – 80% will develop PTSD.

•Almost 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD.

•Somewhat higher rates of this disorder have been found to occur in African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans compared to Caucasians in the United States

Veterans are no different than anyone else with PTSD.

People with PTSD avoid certain activities and environments, are hyper-vigilant, have intrusive memories and are often depressed. Headaches, troubled sleep, poor attention span, and muddled thinking are the hallmarks of PTSD.

Impulsive behavior is sometimes seen, too. But surprisingly, anger, hostility and aggressiveness are less common symptoms.

Veterans with PTSD are two to three times as likely to be physically abusive of their wives and girlfriends as those without the diagnosis. They’re three times as likely to get into fistfights when they go to college.

One study showed they are especially prone to “impulsive aggression,” but that “premeditated aggression” was far more common in veterans without PTSD than in those with it.

•Lifetime occurrence in veterans 9 – 31%. The prevalence of PTSD in combat veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars varies from 9 percent to 31 percent, depending on whether severity of impairment is included in the measurement.

•In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% – and that’s just diagnosed cases.

•Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.

•20% of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 6 years have PTSD. That’s over 300,000.

•17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.

(Military statistics as of 12/2010)

Teens And Children!

•15-43% of girls and 14-43% of boys will experience a traumatic event

•3-15% girls and 1-6% of boys will develop PTSD

•As many as 30 – 60% of children who have survived specific disasters have PTSD

•According to the National Center for PTSD: “Rates of PTSD are much higher in children and adolescents recruited from at-risk samples. The rates of PTSD in these at-risk children and adolescents vary from 3 to 100%.”

•3 - 6% of high school students in the U.S. who survive specific disaster develop PTSD

•More than 33% of youths exposed to community violence with experience PTSD

•According the the National Center for PTSD: “Studies have shown that as many as 100% of children who witness a parental homicide or sexual assault develop PTSD.

Similarly, 90% of sexually abused children, 77% of children exposed to a school shooting, and 35% of urban youth exposed to community violence develop PTSD.”

•According to The Effects of High Stress on the Brain and Body in Adolescents report from Yale , Stress is believed to contribute to the physical and behavioral health problems of adolescents.

Of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, 2.3 % have fair or poor health, 5% miss 11 or more days of school because of illness or injury, 10% have smoked cigarettes, and 17% have used alcohol; of adolescents between ages 12 and 19, 18% are overweight.

So Should You Lose Your 2nd Amendment Rights Because You May Be One Of The Millions Of Americans Who Suffer From PTSD?

PTSD affects our quality of life, but it doesn't automatically make us Murderers.

It should certainly not have anything to do with us losing our Constitutional Rights. 

The negative impact of traumatic events can manifest in a variety of indirect ways, such as increased alcohol use, interpersonal and family conflicts, social withdrawal, depression, sleep problems, amplify physical pain, somatic distress, and basic performance deterioration at work and at home.

Anxiety and stress impacts the way we see the world, it creates negative thinking, and cognitive distortions. It also diminishes our memory, our ability to concentrate, our attention span, and even our decision-making capabilities.

If someone has PTSD, then they should know that they are not alone. Whether they’re looking for information on general PTSD stats, combat related symptoms, women's issues, or teens and children problems with PTSD, there is help available.

Whether it's counseling, groups, psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical treatment, people with PTSD should not feel as though they will lose their Civil Rights under the Constitution if they seek help.

True support includes understanding that PTSD symptoms effect millions of Americans, and those who suffer from PTSD should not be looked upon as Lepers.

The term mental Illness already has a stigma that goes along with it. Many do not seek help because of that stigma.

Now with a national debate on gun violence and mental health taking place, it would be a crime if a police officer couldn't get some counseling if he needed to, or if a rape victim couldn't get help, or if a veteran couldn't talk about what he or she may have experienced -- all simply out of fear that if they did, then they would lose their rights to own a firearm, to hunt or to protect themselves.

President Obama's plan to curb gun violence should not go forward because it will hurt more than help in more ways than he understands.

Story by Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. You're right, Tom. PTSD does NOT make you a murderer. But it does make you afraid. Still, however, it is a very bad idea to take someone with PTSD to a gun range not knowing whether or not they will turn the gun on you. Just look at what happened to Chris Kyle. He tried to help out a guy with PTSD by taking him to a gun range and the guy killed him. Am I trying to say that I have PTSD? No. Because I don't. But still, that's really a bad idea when somebody with PTSD is taken to a gun range where they could possibly kill the instructor with said firearm. I wouldn't recommend it. But still, that does not make you a murderer. It only scares you and torments you until it has total control. Medication and therapy are the only two cures. And it wouldn't hurt to keep a journal. That always helps. So when it comes down to whether or not PTSD makes you a murderer, the answer is no. But it does give you nightmares. Nightmares that come and go. The best thing you can do is to conquer them. Namaste. And thanks as always, Tom.


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