People setting off fireworks should be aware of veterans suffering from PTSD


(WETM) – In light of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, it is important to remember those that might be severely affected. For veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, the loud noises and flashing lights disposed of the fireworks can be triggering.

There are a variety of symptoms that can be provoked by fireworks. Clinical psychologist who is the lead for PTSD specialty care services at Bath VA Medical Center, Dr. Carlie Phillips, says they can experience increased heart rate, shakiness, and memories from combat and other traumas can come back to them at that moment.

“One thing I would suggest is, if possible, try not to set off fireworks outside of what we would consider a regular timeframe for the Fourth of July… Really keeping it focused on this weekend,” said Dr. Phillips.

Typically, people will set off fireworks days before the Fourth of July and even a week or two after, in celebration of the holiday. But Dr. Phillips says that veterans are more susceptible to be triggered when they are caught off guard.

“For veterans, it’s more likely when they know and expect that the fireworks are going to happen they are better able to cope and prepare… It’s when those unexpected fireworks go off that they can be upset more,” said Dr. Phillips.

For veterans that would like to enjoy the fireworks, and have PTSD that is less severe, earbuds or noise-canceling headphones are recommended. The app PTSD Coach is recommended for those that are more affected. PTSD Coach offers relaxation tools and distraction techniques for those that aren’t able to completely avoid the firework activities and sounds.

Dr. Phillips also encourages veterans and families to seek out VA services to manage symptoms in the long run. She says that the VA services offer evidence-based treatments focused on PTSD that will help in the short term but also helping managing triggers longer term so veterans can enjoy these holidays in the future.

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