Post-traumatic stress disorder has affected thousands of Americans. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops when a person has encountered a stressful, frightening or dangerous event. It can be identified by actions as heightened aggression or reactions, destruction or risky behaviors, as well as the inability to concentrate or sleep (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). A large portion of those affected with this disorder are active members of the U.S. military and veterans, those who have served in the past. An example of this disorder is found in American Sniper: Autobiography written by Chris Kyle. This book focuses on life and experiences of a United States Navy Seal who, because of his job and experiences in war zones, was later diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder. His book describes the situations Mr. Kyle experienced, the symptoms and situations that lead to his being diagnosed, and how he managed to adjust to life after his time serving. It is an accurate portrayal of some of the mental and emotional struggles that someone with this disorder must endure.
In most cases of military related PTSD, those affected have some sort of combat experiences or trauma. In his book, Mr. Kyle talked about the traumatic events that led to his being diagnosed with PTSD. He served four tours in the Middle East as a military sniper. One of the incidents he describes is being caught in a fire fight while deployed to the Middle East. we started taking fire from AK’s and rocket- propelled grenades. The conflict ratcheted up quickly. The RPGs began tearing holes in the loose concrete or adobe walls, breaking through and starting fires (Kyle, 2012). Mr. Kyle was placed in multiple situations throughout his military career that were comparable to this. Although soldiers are trained and prepared to be in situations such as these, being in a situation that could ultimately result in the loss of one’s life could cause a significant amount of stress. “About 30% of the men and women who have spent time in more recent war zones experience PTSD” (Irabarren, 2005). Experimental data has shown that these war zone experiences cause serious mental effects on those involved. Following his fourth and final deployment, Mr. Kyle wrote about the behavioral changes he noticed in himself. Most commonly, this disorder is diagnosed within six months following the trauma or event and is usually diagnosed by changes in behavior.
There are several behaviors that characterize PTSD, including nightmares, repeated recollection of the event, and fear associated with sensual activities such as sights, smells and sounds. Insomnia, nightmares, and recollection of being shot in the line of duty were just a few of the many symptoms he wrote about having to have dealt with. “I relived the gunshot every time I lay down to rest. My heart thumped hard in my chest, probably a lot harder than it had that night The more I tried to relax the worse things got” (Kyle, 2012). Mr. Kyle described experiences while trying to sleep after his return. He discussed his physical experiences while attempting to relax and rest due to anxiety and replaying events in his head.
Many veterans and active military have trouble with sleep disturbances after a combat situation. In 2016 an experiment was done to see the differences in sleep disturbances before and after treatment has occurred for veterans and active duty members suffering from PTSD. More than 90% of participants reported having problems with sleep, mostly insomnia. In the end the experiment concluded that insomnia was still prevalent for most of the participants, however the therapy did seem to help with nightmares in some participants (Pruiksma, 2016). Sleep disturbances are a common occurrence among those living with PTSD. Mr. Kyle also had issues with sleep disturbances while learning to cope with the situations and traumatic events he had experienced. He discussed everything that was attempted to assist him in his quest for restful sleep, including medications, group therapies, and virtual reality exposure therapy.
There are many treatments available to those diagnosed with PTSD. Mr. Kyle chose medications to help, along with group therapy and virtual reality exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a treatment used to help patients dealing with PTSD overcome anxiety and other issues that are associated with the condition. Several experiments have been done to see if virtual exposure therapy could assist patients with PTSD better cope with the traumatic experiences.
One specific trial that was done in 2017 wanted to see if virtual exposure therapy was more effective on PTSD patients that experienced combat situations was more effective than those of regular exposure therapies. The results of the trial showed that exposure therapy has a positive correlation with helping veterans cope with PTSD symptoms, virtual reality exposure did not cause a significant change over that of regular exposure therapies (Mclay, 2017). PTSD is a difficult disorder to treat. Every person experiences their symptoms differently and choses to respond to those experiences differently. Exposure therapy has shown in studies to be productive in helping those like Mr. Kyle work through his experiences and the symptoms related to the disorder. Mr. Kyle chose to use different methods that would be right for him and his family in order to help manage the symptoms he was experiencing. This is another way the book accurately portrays the issues that are present when dealing with PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder has made its mark on our military men and women. Chris Kyle’s book has brought some of the issues and experiences to light. He expresses his experiences to his audience in such a way that they are able to see how his career lead to his diagnosis of PTSD, how the disorder affected his life and how he chose to deal with those issues. His autobiography accurately portrays the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that occur when dealing with PTSD.