Veterans with PTSD may revisit trauma with holiday fireworks

Fireworks can trigger painful reminders for military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With the July 4th holiday this weekend, many should expect to hear fireworks as people begin to celebrate. But those fireworks can be painful reminders for military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

They can resemble sounds of war, according to one Marine Corp veteran, Jessica Shively. “Fireworks are loud...and like earth-shaking,” she explained.

Shively spent a year driving in the Marine Corp and said the loud booms from fireworks can take her back to her days in Iraq. “It takes you off guard. And that’s kind of where you get that anxiety and those flashbacks,” she said.

Dr. Lauren Osborne, the psychologist at the Greenville Veterans Administration, said that immediate feeling of panic for veterans with PTSD is something they often can’t control - especially during the Fourth of July holiday. “That flight or flight response kicks in...that kind of abrupt nature that fireworks can have, especially in neighborhoods, that tends to kind of set people on a little bit more on an alert,” she said.

Osborne said there are ways to think ahead, so that the situation is less stressful for veterans. Veterans themselves can put signs in their yards or letters in neighbors’ mailboxes to let them know they live there and would like others to be courteous if they set off fireworks.

Neighbors who know a veteran lives close by can also reach out to them to let them know their plans and timing.

Shively said it’s as easy as a simple conversation. “Just common courtesy like ‘hey, you know, we’re about to shoot off some fireworks, is that cool?' Just giving us at least a heads up, like ‘this is what we’re about to do',” she said.

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