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April 25th, 2012 by Dr. Phil

Heroes in Pain

HeroesInPainWe’ve received a lot of response about last week’s show, “Heroes in Pain,” which focused on the epidemic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that torments so many lives, including soldiers who’ve put their lives on the line serving our country. Some viewers expressed concern, and even disappointment, with the show’s original title, “Heroes to Monsters?” Our intent was to acknowledge the question so often cited in the media, not to make a statement, and to emphasize the severity of the pain and suffering our guests say they experience. In doing so, we unintentionally offended some of our viewers, and have therefore changed the title to more accurately reflect the show’s content.

I’m glad the show stirred so many of you to respond. Our goal is, and always will be, to call attention to the challenges our returning soldiers face, including PTSD. I really wanted you to hear firsthand the effects that PTSD can have on war heroes and their families, and I’m grateful to our guests for being so candid and honest about their experiences. I hope other media outlets will join us in talking openly about these challenges and our need as a society to respond with compassionate action. Two of my three sisters married fighter pilots (Vietnam era), and my nephew flew many missions as a Navy fighter pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the lives of our veterans hits very close to home.

The stories our guests shared last week told of the realities of PTSD, and I hope, stressed the need for both awareness and treatment — not only for the veterans reliving the nightmares of what they saw in battle, but for their parents, spouses and children as well. I will never forget what our guest Beth confided about the day her son Mathew returned from Iraq. “I looked at him and became paralyzed,” she said “I just knew from his very faraway, dark look on his face that our own private war had just begun.”

It’s estimated that post-traumatic stress problems affect at least one in five veterans who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s especially significant among soldiers who’ve served multiple tours; many of whom are getting treatment, but others are still falling through the cracks. Here’s a figure that just stuns me: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hand.

I couldn’t be more proud of the team here at Dr. Phil for being so passionate about raising awareness and offering solutions. Over the last several years, we’ve taken on the VA and other agencies, and we’ll continue to do so. It’s critical that those who serve our country and keep us safe receive the best and most comprehensive treatment available.

For this show, we called on everyone to pay attention to this very real, typically brain injury-based disorder. And we brought in the best of the best to help shed light on treatments, including Dr. Frank Lawlis, one of the leading PTSD experts in the world. I encourage you to check out his book, The PTSD Breakthrough, and download — for free — his PTSD program, Retraining Your Thoughts, by clicking here. Both provide valuable information to help you understand how the brain works, its anatomy and how it can be fixed after a traumatic event that leads to PTSD.

I also encourage you to check out the deep and relevant resources available on DrPhil.com. It’s a disgrace that so many of our veterans are suffering, sometimes alone, the unintended consequences of their heroism. Let’s educate ourselves and work together so they suffer no more, and I personally pledge to continue to support our men and women who stand in harm’s way so that we may live in a peaceful democracy.

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95 Responses to “Heroes in Pain”

  1. Mike says:

    As a Veteran with PTSD, I am very glad that you changed the title of the episode. Whoever came up with the original title should be fired. I understand the intent. However, I was and am deeply offended. We have our demons with which to contend. I have dealt with my own demons for almost 30 years. I have asked myself “Am I crazy?”, “Am I a sociopath?”, “What the hell is wrong with me?”. Do you want to know what is wrong with me? Nothing. I am having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. After being neglected by the VA system for many years, I am finally able to get help.

    Not real thrilled with you folks right now.

  2. Anna says:

    I’m a Marine Mom and when my son deployed they lost a Marine in his unit, I felt guilt, especially at homecoming for his family that they were denied what I was experiencing, I got to see my son come from Afghan, but they didn’t, why, I still feel the guilt. So I could imagine these soliders and how they feel, 10x worse.

  3. Ray says:

    I also have PTSD. Started in 2001 while I was police officer involved in a shooting and suspect died, but friend (Fellow Officer) Died that day. It was hard, and just recently was told what I have. But to top it all off I was contractor for Operation Iraqi freedom and that tipped it all over the edge. I am just starting to get help and the show made me cry realizing so many are hurting. For almost 12 years I have been dealing with the same person on the exterior but my insides were twisted and scarred. This hurt alot and I hurt others in the process. But help is available and I did find GOD again and that helped so much. MAY GOD BLESS EVERY HERO HERE AND ABROAD!



  4. Karen Carraro says:

    I am glad to see this topic discussed. Based on my research of PTSD, I have found a lot of literature on the therapeutic effects of mind-based stress reduction program for treating this disorder. Currently I am registered to attend a MBSR training at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. I am surprised MBSR wasn’t mentioned.

  5. Mary says:

    This issue along with the benefits and help that veterans are not receiving is shameful!! My brother was in Vietnam and suffered for 40 years with PTSD along with an alcohol addiction. In his late 50’s he finally hit rock bottom and needed help – financially, physically & mentally. After my father passed away (he was a WWII disabled veteran) who I took care of his last 8 months along with the help of the VA Home based primary care, I then turned my attention to my brother. I knew my Dad received his disability rating because of the DAV and the organization fighting for his benefits. So I decided to contact them and start the process with my brother – if I hadn’t he would of been homeless ( I didn’t have the means to take of him). The VA Administration definitely does not try to find you!! If you don’t ask you will not get what you deserve. My brother was wounded in Vietnam and had a purple heart – after many medical & psychological appointments in the end he received 100% disability rating along with a monthly check of $3100 and retro back pay. They linked ischemic heart disease to agent orange and he did get all his medical care provided 100% along with having bypass surgery August of 2011. Since he did get his 100% rating I didn’t push him to get more of a rating for his PTSD (which was only 30%) – can’t believe they only arrived at that percentage – that alone could of been 100%. Unfortunately they are at the mercy of who interviews them and how they come across – which most of them do not want to be classified as “crazy” so I think they do not admit everything they are feeling.

    To make a long story short – he passed away February 26, 2012 at 60 years old and we had him buried in Arlington with full honors, as he wished. The VA administration truly needs a better public relations campaign and they need to find these veterans who need help. To honor my brother’s memory – I try to always speak out and tell all veterans to get help and go through the Disabled Veterans of America – they are there to support you and fight for your benefits.

    I could go on and on with more but it gets exhausting talking about it and just the dealings directly with the VA hospitals and doctors – so I know that’s why most veterans just drop it and don’t pursue their benefits. Also, the VA Hospitals and services they offer are different from state to state. I feel that Florida (where I am and my father was) provides more services than for instance North Carolina – where my brother was located.

  6. Pat Anderson says:

    I am pleased that you are addressing this PTSD for this sickness is rampant with our Vets. My son has returned to USA after six (6) tours in the Middle East and yes he did not lose a limb or was he hit with a grenade, but he has lost himself. My son has been back from Afghanistan nearly three (3) years and he has not even come to see his son and doesn’t even talk to him. Dr. Phil, today an Army Vet came to do a job at my home and that vet says he got injured while overseas and after ten and a half (101/2) in the service the military demands that he pays back for the treatment he received after he got his injury fighting US war. The VA is NOT taking proper care of their soldiers and this is a despicable disgrace that needs to STOP NOW. Thanks for exposing this travesty.

  7. Ray says:

    One more comment was I was glad to see Dr. Phil do this show. When we do have ptsd its bad enuf but when you hurt others in the process this is what made me realize how many vets, first responders etc get shunned away. Sometimes asking for help you fear losing that gun/badge or whatever, and that is the false sense of security you have if something happens, and you need help.

    Just a thought.


  8. Sheree says:

    My husband suffers with PTSD. He is a retired marine who joined the National Guard, became a Green Beret served in Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and the Gulf War and then went back to Iraq as a private contractor. After all of this, there is no way that he could be the same man as he was when he left (I expected that) but not to the extent that it has and is killing my family. We only have one child and the child absolutely fears his father and is always wishing that “Dad is not home.” My husband has divorced me, but we still live in the same house. He wanted to believe that the reason he was so angry was because he could not be happy with me. We have found that he can not be happy at all with anyone or anything. He is angry all the time. Other times he goes and visits his mother for days to get away, until she can not stand it any longer and he goes into one of his anger fits and decides that he can not be in the house with her any longer. He does not have any friends and he has admitted to me that people who once looked up to him and thought of him as an excellent friend said that they are afraid of him. My husband is getting help from the VA but he thinks that he needs to return to the workforce, so he has stopped the medication so that he will not have “drugs in his system” and he will be able to get a job and go back to the war zone. PTSD is a murderer; it kills families, children, and dreams. My husband was a normal, fun loving, and what I called a real “goofball” before PTSD now he does not even smile. We need help.

  9. Art says:

    First, I want to say “Thanks” to all the Vets that have enabled us back home in the USA, to continue on with our freedom and everyday lives…

    Second, I want to thank Dr. Phil for picking up on this topic of PTSD on his daytime talk show and on this website…those Vets need all the help that they can get…

    Lastly, as a vet myself (Vietnam era) and active patient of the VA Medical Care system, it troubles me to hear in many responses here on this website and in many other forums, that the VA System seems to be dropping the ball on our Vets…I too have had my “Catch-22″ occasions with the VA and can sort of relate to the frustration that these Vets are going through…

    There must be a way that we can correct this injustice…perhaps by continual communications with our Representatives of Congress and Senate, Veterans organizations, City/State representatives and maybe even forming new groups of Vets to fight the system…

    Today, 09 Aug 2012 on the Dr. Phil show, a Vet named Matt (I believe it was), was talking about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and his nightmares after returning home…where he is now on some medical prescriptions which he needs just to live each day in some form of normality and from what I can gather from the show, those meds were not prescribed by the VA but obtained locally I guess…that just isn’t right…the VA and the American Government needs to step up to the plate and provide all of our Vets, all the care that they need for as long as it takes…PERIOD!!!…if the nearest VA Medical Center is too far for a Vet to commute to, then the VA needs to pay a local hospital/doctor/medical center for the care that is needed…

    Something is terribly wrong with our system when the Men and Women that put their lives on hold for our country and have to come home and put up with this sort of thing…

    We are better than that!!!…

  10. Cheryl says:

    My 16 year son suffers from PTSD. It’s not from being deployed but it causes strain in our relationship. I was shocked when he was diagnosed with it 3 years ago and then to find out that it started earlier but he tried to handle it himself. It was great to see this show becuase Dr. Phil actually explained some things that my son’s doctors never did. I’m HOPING I can remember this when he’s having an episode. Thank you again Dr. Phil.

  11. Andrea says:

    I am the mother to two soldiers. Both were in Afghanistan at the same time. We are fortunate in that they are integrating back into their lives at home. But if they ever show signs of having problems that are effecting their day to day lives, I will work tooth and nail to get them help. There is a organization of licensed mental health specialists who work confidentially with veterans and their family members. It is called A soldiers project. http://www.thesoldiersproject.org/ it is completely confidential and wives or parents can even go for help to understand about ptsd.
    Another big help was a book called “Courage on fire.” It is for both the veteran and anyone else involved with them to read. I read it and have a good understanding about what signs to watch for and even how to handle certain situations.
    I am grateful to each and every service member and am in awe of their sacrifices, as well as their families sacrifices.

  12. Linda Bacanskas says:

    My son went into the Marine Corps right after high school 2002-2006. Did one tour in Afghanistan & one in Iraq. Ever since he came home he has been dealing with PTSD, alchohol & now drugs for the last 4 years. He has been to the VA. detox & rehab 4 times, and the last time went to the PTSD program. he was thrown out of that. he lived in a homless shelter & on the street. He is back at the VA. in a different program. He is suffering {and needless to say our whole family is}. He is angry when I speak to him. It seems now matter what they do at the VA. doesnt help He is a mess. He has no direction in life right now. I dont thinik this is helping him at the VA. he keeps relapsing. The last time he was using heroin. I was so scared when he showed me the tracks on his arms. I know after heroin ,the next thing is death. We dont know what else to do for him.
    I dont want my son to die. I wish I could take his pain away.

  13. Sasha M Chambers from Australia says:

    Hi and or G’Day !

    10 AUG 2012
    13:20 hours

    I am currently writing a Tetralogy (series of 4 books) which is loosely a memoir of my life. I am not a Defence Force person or a Marine as you Yanks would have it, however I have had family members who have been in National Service roles, who have served time in World War II and the Balkan wars namely. PTSD can occur to anyone who has suffered a traumatic experience. I was born with parents who had it, had family members who have suffered from it and I myself became PTSD directly and indirectly as a result of it. It’s a life long pain, if one survives it and without help, the price can be death to oneself, let alone any collateral damage to others in the process.

    I am 37 and it’s taken me this long to finally address my PTSD and various triggers. I have been in my own war for so long that it can be difficult to see any other life. But let me tell you as a survivor, there is life after PTSD. I hope that everyone who gets a chance to read Dr.Phil’s blogs and support pages, gives themselves the chance of reading commentaries like mine, and whosoever requires assistance for PTSD, seriously seeks it as viciously as the disorder can, invading their lives. Combat for combat I say. It can be won but nothing will happen if you don’t want change to occur. The biggest enemy is oneself.

    My love and well wishes to all people, not just Military, who suffer from all forms of Depression and PTSD. Please, please, please if no one else reaches you, I hope I can touch a little of your soul in begging you to make that change.

    A little side note to the family, friends or those surrounding someone suffering from PTSD, my best advice is to seek professional support yourselves as you will need the right skill set to remain strong for a loved one suffering from PTSD.

    Love Sasha

  14. Patricia says:

    All wounds don’t bleed
    My father served in WW2-after the war, he struggled with what he had to do.
    He was a good man by day, and enraged animal by night-ranting and raving, causing us fright.
    Sometimes there was a quietness in his soul-then sometimes, this seemly young person became so old.
    Bleeding isn’t only on the outside-it can be silently within the brain as it hides.
    Memories laying there rumbling, threatening to explode-carrying the baggage of war is a awesome load.
    The memories silent yet loud-alone , yet in a soldiers mind there is a crowd.
    A crowd that keeps him remembering the pains of war-the things done under the code of honor and its laws.
    To some its an issue of right or wrong-ordered to, yet not wanting to go along.
    Some drink to tuck the pain away-even drinking, the real will surface one day.
    And you will find those memories right in your face-and the pain of war will leave a nasty taste.
    As you go over them again and again-because the wounds are in the brain.
    And the memories are invisible to others-as you’re haunted by the faces of your killed and suffering brothers.
    You and me have to understand a soldiers needs-Because all wounds don’t bleed. By: Patricia Robinson-8/24/04-12noon

  15. Sonya says:

    My family suffers from PTSD and TBI from my husband. He was in Desert Storm when he was single and OIF in 2004-2005. Ive looked for help forever and the VA does nothing but try to cover the pain with pills, we go to therapy but thats not a big help either. We have been married for 20 yrs. I can relate to those women on the show its so sad to watch and i was in tears but to live it is terrible no one understands our side of PTSD either(the family) theres help for the guys but what about the wife and kids we suffer to everyday with this. We walk on egg shells afraid we might say the wrong thing so here we just dont say anything to keep him ok and support him. Its very frustrating. I love my husband very much and i will not give up just like every marine, they dont give up but in PTSD eyes its easier to let go of everything and the ones you love. I would love to get some feed back on my situation. Its very hard when you see your husband in a corner with a gun wanting to end his life because of all the memories. We never faught or argued before Iraq now its all the time. Help me help him to see there is another life out there that can make him happy again.

    Tears of a PTSD wife,

  16. Monica says:

    My husband suffers from PTSD as a result of trauma he suffered while he was a police officer. At least there is some understanding that people who have gone to war could come back with PTSD. For cops, I think people assume that what they do and what they see is ‘just their job’ and that they are like the cops on TV who can see all that violence and stay the same. And cops themselves see PTSD as a weakness, like the patient just didn’t have the guts to do the job.
    I love him and with medication he is doing well, but there is always the concern in the back of my mind that he could relapse into out of control behavior. Even today when I found out he was watching this episode by himself, I was concerned that it would negatively impact him.
    My heart goes out to those suffering, both the patients and the families, because this disease is frightening.

  17. Roxsand says:

    Hi Dr. Phil
    Re: PSTD show I first thank you for being a sincere tool helping individuals. I was diagnosed with PSTD and anxiety. Not due to being a veteran but due to an abusive childhood which of course it then went to my adult life. I was not diagnosed till 40 I had the worst episode I was shocked relieved to finally understand what was happening to me. I wondered if you have thought about a show referencing PSTD for adults survivors of abuse? I have not been successful in controlling mine, I do educate myself and am learning slowly what the triggers are to gain control. I thank you for the show.

  18. jeni says:

    Thank you for addressing PTSD. My beloved boyfriend has chronic PTSD and just came home on July 16 from his fifth and final tour in Afghanistan.
    He has impulse control issues and days that he goes to the “dark place”. Recently, on an impulse, he moved out of our home to his parents. He will be back, but these days are the most challenging.
    Our communication is good in that he tells me when he is in his dark place and is going to visit his counselor. We are currently working on adjusting his medication regimen. Usually the first four months after he returns from war are the most challenging. Lots of labile emotions – ups and downs for the both of us.
    He definitely struggles with survivor guilt and makes comments about the fact that he should have come home in a box. Those comments are the hardest to hear.
    I struggle daily to keep the norm – as the norm seems to change just that fast.
    Keep up the strong work Dr. Phil. I am an emergency room nurse and have seen an incredible increase in the amount of vets coming in for help for crisis situation because they cannot get help through the VA. PTSD is challenging and we as a society need to keep an open mind and use compassion when dealing with the ladies and gentlemen who fought for our freedom.

  19. marilyn says:

    I was sexually attacked by a stranger when I was 9 years old. I never told anyone until I was about 45. I repressed it because the feeling was just too horrible for a child to deal with. My family is a loving, Christian family but I think, in my childish mind, that I thought that if I were a good girl, bad things like that would not have happened to me. I had let evil get onto my family. So I had to make sure nobody knew.

    In order to repress something like that one has to look away whenever the thought of it pops up. You learn to look away from anything uncomfortable. You can do that for a while but then it just gets to be too much.

    One thing that I believe contributes to the awful stress is our society’s idea that if you have one fault, you are rotten, through and through. (When our social role models do something good, the media digs to find out what they are trying to hide by their goodness!) We learn as children not to look at anything about ourselves that may be painful. And children misunderstand so much!

    I an now 66 and have finally learned how to look at my life, just a little bit at a time. I have found that Dr. Phil’s program and many resources have helped me. There is a lot of wisdom out there.

    The message I would like to hear resonating through the world is that we can trust that every little step that we take to look at ourselves will not be lost if we feel bad. We are not broken because we are in pain. That fact makes the pain less scary.

  20. Holly says:

    I actually missed this show but I will go find it and make sure i do, I have a bf suffering with PTSD and not only is it hard on him it is hard on my son and me. Most days are good and he is a good man but some are hard and he hardly makes it outta bed, he will not talk about the things he has seen, I’m not sure if he can’t or if he is afraid but I do know this is a real disease that is effecting many family’s all over our country and our Goverment needs to treat it as so and get them the help they need they helped us it is only right we help them!

  21. Bret Erwin says:

    As somebody having been treated via VA Mental Health clinics starting over twenty years ago, I don’t think this is the face of public health anybody in their right mind wants to learn too much about, but compared to the one psychiatrist who got paid by medicaid to insult me for twenty minutes the VA can at least outperform that. All of us carry heavy baggage from whatever number of events in our lives. Even rich kids hate themselves for not meeting daddy’s expectations. Accepting how traumatic brain injury or having had my skull fractured & jaw broken by friendly fire in peacetime, or doping myself for half a lifetime makes me accountable & caused many years of homelessness. Our personalities evolve through trauma & we adapt the changes to our memory & executive functions…Or we die too much from the resentment we carry about who we aren’t anymore. In my case a fine edge will always exist where medication either helps me or freaks me out even more than if I don’t take any. For very stable personalities stimulants can help. Only one VA physician ever took the chance to prescribe those to me, and although they helped greatly the same things associated with bad medicine side effects from almost all medications caused me trouble. Great benefits are possible along side of terrible consequences. Just like winning or losing a war, maybe.

  22. Rhonda says:

    Dr Phil,
    My sons name is James Holmes but was KIA in Iraq May 8 2004 protecting this country. many people from his unit is very upset that the mad killer from Colorado is also James Holmes and is getting so much press release. I here your doing a show reguarding the killer from Colorado. At the end of that show Can you show a poster one of the soilders made reguarding this mad man! so people will quit confusing a hero with a killer.How can I get this to you. Will you please e-mail me back ASAP so I can forward this picture to you and your staff. Our military is accused to many times of being killers and baby killers “yes even in todays times people still believe such nonsence” we need to show not all military is bad and they do more than many people would do including myself its time to focus on our soldiers and what they do . And yes I am the mother of SPC James Holmes.

  23. penny ackerson says:

    people have seem to forgotten about the hundreds ofvietnam vets that are still suffering.their families that still face on an everyday basis the hell their loved ones went thru yrs. ago are still living it today.i speak for them.remember them also PLEASE!

  24. Anita Jo Harrison says:

    I would like someone to address the pain and suffering of the families when these soldiers refuse help or even one who doesn’t have PTSD destroys a family when he leaves them with nothing but to live on welfare.

    This happens more often than people realize. There are whole families attached to these soldiers and when they take off, they leave destruction in their wake.

    We then are left out in the cold with our support system taken away as we immediately are removed from the military family support system by the military and the other families, while the soldier continues on with life making all the money they are entitled carrying the “hero” status and not even paying child support.

    I spent 16 years as a military wife and my kids were Army brats. We were left in the dust with nothing but a foreclosing house and food stamps.

    Hero he is not.

  25. Andre says:

    As a soldier who is currently being discharged for PTSD and other issues, I was shocked to see soldiers on the internet stating that the original name of the show was Hero’s to Monster’s. As a so called “Dr”, I feel that you should have known better then to allow even the slightest inclination that we were monsters. Yes, it has stirred up alot of emotions in the military world and we already feel ousted by a world that doesn’t understand. PTSD has been recorded as far back as the civil war. When I returned home it tore apart my family and it was our dirty secret. I didn’t want anyone to know. I felt no pain, no happiness, no anything except hatred and rage. I scared my wife, children and others who knew me. I am in the process of getting boarded out of the military, I am losing my home in Colorado, but, with the help of my family I am stabilizing. I know it will be a long road. But one thing that angers me more then anything is when someone who has never first hand experiences what we do even uses the word MONSTER in the same sentence as hero or soldier, it enrages me to a point where it affirms my thought that there isn’t anyone except my brothers and sisters in arms can understand. There are thousands of soldiers who are suffering and won’t and will never tell of what they are going through due to the stigma that we are monsters. The damage is done and someone better work very hard to make it right, just writing a brief blog comment on how you apologize doesn’t cut it. As for this dedicated soldier of 13 years, I will never watch Dr Phil again, and am deeply embarrassed that that title was EVER released. I would expect more professionalism from a so called Dr. who has a vast audience.

  26. Mary says:

    My son was deployed and unfortunately came home a different person. He is one of the “monster’s” you refer too. Yes, he has PTSD, but he is a wonderful man and a good father. His life has changed from what he saw and some of the things he had to do. He was injured and now is 100% disabled. But I am very proud of him and the fact that he was willing to fight in another land so that our country might not endure the effects of war. He has been home for three years and has worked with his demons. It got really rough at one point but he has learned how to handle things and has come a long way. He even is there to help other vets when needed. I have always liked your show and thought it had merit. But now I’m not so sure I ever want to watch it again. Because of my work schedule I haven’t got to see it as much as I would have liked so this episode I missed. Probably a good thing. My TV might not be working after viewing it. I sincerely hope you will make a public apology for this negative picture of our military heroes if you have not already done so. I am appalled that someone in your position would be so heartless to both them and their families. I have said my piece and I’m hoping you will be the kind person I have always though you to be and say yours in a positive way to those who have served our country.

  27. Dee says:

    My young Marine come home from Desert Storm with so many terrors and a lifethreatening problem that almost took his life at his first post state-side.. The corps dischaarged him and sent him on his way to many years of trying to get back in the ‘real’ world. Many years of frustration passed befor he would come back home but he was not the same person who left from High Schoo to become a MARINE .I am so proud of him he is still my ‘jarhead’but..he is still on the bettle field even today. Cars backfiring, thunder too loud fighting stress all the time and working through the health problems.
    You can’t always see the damage and many don’t understand….war does something in your mind…Desert Storm troops are dieying every day from illnesses the doctors can’t explain and their loved ones pray to be strong for them.

  28. Shack. says:

    Dr Phil and fellow readers
    i am a 5 year veteran. all it took for me to receive the lovely gift of PTSD was 1 fifteen month tour in Mosul Iraq. i used to be that goofball that said or did things close to the edge, but never quite went over it. very confident in my skills as a welder, mechanic and fabricator, but the ironic part i was a hopeless romantic and terribly shy around the girl i had my eyes on. now after Iraq i have discovered that i hold grudges, not over what people think or believe or even act, to an extent. but when they don’t keep their word. my retirement from the military was my choice after i had gotten into a situation that caused me to have a black out type flashback. it was not fun and i would not wish it on ANYONE. after i had been calmed down and removed from the situation i had realized that i had let my issues get the better of me, and in doing so i had lost the trust of everyone i served with in my unit. and i can honestly say i do not blame them. after that i told my 1st Sergeant exactly ” i would still love to serve for 20 plus years, but i don’t need to be the reason that my fellow soldiers are watching their back, i don’t want them to be in combat and worrying as much about what i am doing as the enemy, they need to be able to do their job, and with my situation and what has happened they would not be able to do that. i do not want to retire, but in life we must do things we don’t want to, for ourselves and for others, i need to get out so that i don’t have a chance to cause anymore harm like this in the military.” my CO and 1st Sgt were moved by this and pushed for an honorable discharge which i received and when it came time for me to leave the army i thank them both. to this day my sleeping pattern, if it exists is entirely random, in order to combat this i stay as physically busy as possible. it’s amazing what you can do when your body wants to move and will not let you sleep for 36 hours. i am also always constantly vigilant, i notice everything around me, and for a short while “Catalog” it in my mind, trips to crowded places like Walmart are a nightmare for me, especially between the hours of 9-5. i HAVE to be with a trusted friend or loved one or i won’t make it through the 5 minutes it takes me to grab the milk, pay for it and get the hell out which oddly enough with my rather shameless attitude and demeanor most of my friends find going to walmart with me absolutely hilarious and when they laugh at what i do/behave like, i start to laugh. it’s liberating. also people behaving badly or disrespectfully, of anyone, turns me into a scrawny rage filled temper with no fuze. and to this end i have unfortunately damaged a few friendships whom never realized that when this goes off nothing is safe. as much of a fragile psyche as i have, i also have an iron will so to speak. even after PTSD has afflicted me for the past 3 years i can honestly say that i have NEVER hit a woman or a child and i intend to keep it that way. i will walk away from it before it gets physical, not because i am afraid of ” what if”s or ” maybe”s i walk away because i KNOW what will happen. and i do not wish to expose anyone to it. yes i do open or conceal carry a firearm on a daily basis, in fact i don’t leave my bed without putting it in it’s holster on my hip or under my arm. but i have never used it to harm anyone. oddly enough several of my friends only tolerate me while i am at a range target shooting, i even have taught several friends how to use a firearm in the most safe manner possible. most of my friends do keep me at arms length unless i am busy working on something, be it gunsmithing or working on one of my vehicles or going to a range and plinking at targets. but with all these possible problems and issues all of my friends know that if they call me needing help, as soon as they tell me where they are at i will be out the door to go help them, be it a ride or a shoulder to cry on, they know when they need me i will be there. my current girlfriend is a nurse and has a basic understanding of PTSD and i do my level best to educate her on ALL of it, not just my symptoms. i have the fear of crowds, always on 150% guard all the time, if i sleep it’s with one eye open, i do have much hate in my heart. i do have reflex like reactions to a lot of things but something to really pay attention to is the Muscle Memory that the Military uses to get us to be soldiers, marines , airmen and sailors. it’s like tying your shoe. you do it over 1000 times and it becomes automatic, a reflex, with no thought process. but you can also program it on your own. even with the egg shell psyche of mine i have done my own work and my own thing to give me some positive reflexes. so now when my soon to be wife starts to make me upset or angry, which is rare and always unintentional for her, i grab her hips and kiss her. and she knows that when i do this in the middle of the conversation it’s her cue to be a bit more careful and change the subject. without offending her or hurting her. another thing to consider is even if you can’t control certain things like your sleeping patterns or temper you can aim them if you try hard enough. i’ve done well enough on my own to be able to aim it away from people or other living creatures. but i have used it to defend a friend of mine against someone who was wielding a knife trying to rob her. she saw what i could do, and how i couldn’t control it. but she also so how i could give it a positive direction. my sleepless nights i study things between when i was 14 and now i’ve built everything from a jeep to a tank to a model ( no nuclear material) of a nuclear reactor, to starting my own gunsmithing business. those sleepless nights give me time to do lengthy research and even use my meager math skills to figure out every dimension and measurement needed to make a custom one of a kind firearm.

    the VA’s solution to my problem was to put me on over 80 DIFFERENT medications over a 2 year period. needless to say my bodies ability to use any kind of medication is shot now as almost none of the medications out there will work on me. i was blessed from birth with an immunity to Opiates which includes Morhpine and Methadone so most killers don’t work on me, and with the VA’s meddling nothing works on me aside from vitamin pills.

    i had to find my own way to deal with it. so i became a rather shameless person. it took time, but i’ve told the truth to everyone, no matter what it was or how embarrassing some people would find it. i admit to everything i do. including the things i have done in iraq. and the missus loves it. i also became not only a productive member of society but a super productive person. i help others without any pay or reimbursement because getting me out and moving helps me enough that i don’t need or want pay. i am 25 years old and already at a Master Gunsmith level of work with my shop, which i had built myself from the ground up and the VA gave me the schooling for. i work on no less than 6 completely different vehicles through out the week that i or my parents own and help repair and modify a barn that my parents own.

    lastly the absolute biggest thing that helps me – is having a caring enough family/group of friends to understand my problems and not let it get to them. yes they are careful around certain subject just to be safe but all in all they do a damn fine job of putting up with me and my new eccentricities. an add on to that is my soon to be wife. she loves me unconditionally she doesn’t mind it when i have a nightmare and roll over and wrap my arms around her to keep her close, or when i get ready to jump the next guy that looks at her in that certain way. but she is always there comforting me. that’s what it took for ME to find succeess, 3 years of hell that was my military retirement process that i compared to the 15 month deployed that didn’t seem so bad. and i finally found ” my ice cream truck” as Christopher Titus so eloquently put it.

    but what works for me may not work for you. every one is different, their life before , during and after deployment/PTSD all affects us in different ways. and therefore our PTSD will affect us differently as well. the key to it all is finding out what works for YOU, not the last guy with PTSD or the next one. all of us combat veterans are in it together. and i hope that after reading this you start to think about a couple things that help you, and start trying to accomplish them, or follow through with them. it takes a while and getting used to it but it could be the start of getting you back into as normal a life as possible and happy with it as well.

  29. Elly Taylor says:

    It’s not only the returning vets who are suffering, it’s the families as well. I interviewed many military wives for this story, their families just as ‘broken’ as their husbands. Good on you Dr Phil for bringing attention to this very important issue. Silence just makes it worse.


  30. Julie says:

    Dear Dr.Phil; my family became close friends with a police officer who onced patroled our neighborhood while we were living in Savannah Georgia. This officer became near and dear to us because he was one of the few cops who actually did his job. He not only gained the respect of the grown ups but the teenagers and the small kids as well. Shortly before we moved from Savannah, he was severely injured in the line of duty and almost lost his life during an under cover drug sting. He was knocked out by a drug dealer and then thrown out of a moving car. The drug dealers then backed up and ran over him with the car.
    Dr.Phil this man lost his job due to the injuries he received, and when the doctors told him and his department that he will never be able to work again, his department thanked him by firing him even though he had over Twelve Years of service. He has had numerious operations, including a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant placed in him. He has take Morphine, Lyrica, Nuycenta. as well as other pain pills each day.
    Dr.Phil he is wanting to take some courses to become a Mediator so he can help kids with special education needs, but he can not afford the Fifteen Thousand Dollars for the courses nor the computer and other items like books and his former department refuses to give him anything but the workers compensation and meds that they have no other the choice but to provide.
    Sir, I am asking if you know of anyone who maybe able to and willing to help him. I am providing his name and state below in case you wish to contact him. I am just praying that you will be able to find him some help with his dreams or with maybe getting his retirement benefits. Thanks, Julie Floyd.

    Officer J.A.Williams

  31. Gayle cameron says:

    I know this has to do mainly with the military, but some friends of mine experienced PTSD in their lines of work too. The workcover avenue has led them down a depressing and depressive path, with drugs and more drugs and psychiatric hospitals, without cognitive therapy, or any real assistance. they have been bullied by the system, and have not been able to escape the clutches of medical professionals who seem hell bent on getting their cut of the $ that this system provides. They are now worse than when They started the “treatment”. The reports actually lie about the treatment they have received, and are used to continue inappropriate treatments……..go figure!

  32. Theresa says:

    My dear husband Ernest is a Vietnam Vet and the older he gets the PTSD is worse. He is so short tempered, forgetful, thinks he is an expert in everything but the dreams/nightmares are so terrible. He sleeps in another room most of the time. He can destroy the bedcovers, beating the headboard or screaming with ordrs. However, he barely remembers anything the next day. He is so cunning he can convince his Psy Dr everything is all right. I have taped some of our conversations when he is in a rage to prove to therapist or Psy Dr. he is troubled. But yet, I can’t deliver this info cause I’m his wife but not invited into sessions to explain what is happening. I have to be invited it by the patient. This is all wrong and when vets go off into their memory world the public thinks its all the vets problem & not the way the system is set up. Can’t anyone HELP US the wifes or companions?

  33. adrainseyes says:

    I do not call what you titled it. I lost my Dad to PTSD and “Agent Orange” and now I am losing my son. He has starved himself to a scary 100 lbs. I am terrified of what he has become. We know he had the malaria vaccine that was recalled. He did have 2 TBI’s within 2 months of the shot. He was discharged from the Army before he made it to his duty station and it has destroyed him. He was on Lemectal and Xanax for his rage and went off abruptly when he lost his doctor to no fault of his own.
    Today he advised he hates me, my husband and hates himself for hating us.He went into a rage and I have not seen him again. I fear I am about to be “Adam Lambert’s Mom” or at very least he will kill himself. Unless he says those words, no one seems to care…..but I am sitting here trying to make sure I have secured all weapons. Truth is, he cold do anything right now.
    So people can blast you for a name issue and play semantics, but I am living with a monster!! He is not even close to human anymore. I love him and know he is in there somewhere and thank you for your show.
    I have no idea how to follow through with an intervention as I am not uber rich and places like PNP in Dallas do not take his Medicare. So for those of you judgmental types, I can barley see to type this through the tears, so maybe you didn’t like it, but it hit home with the reality it is. I have PTSD and hate triggers, but some of us are dealing with issues that just don’t fit in pretty little boxes with bows.
    BTW Mom’s have zero rights to help their soldier children and the only road leads to death. I pray he doesn’t hurt anyone or himself, as I see no solution.

  34. Kristina says:

    My fiancé was in the middle east: I was not with him during nor after, but he still claims after being home for about 5-6 yrs. the meals messed him up for one.. And his attitude for another… He has “days”… well idk, and I think as a 30 some adult he can deal with the crap that has happened: IF that what it really is!!

  35. Theresa says:

    As a veteran with PTSD and MST, I find this very educational that most non-military do not know or understand what PTSD does to a person. I have attended a Women’s retreat that was held at the Ft Meade VAMC in Sturgis, SD until recently when the VA decided to move things around and we lost not only our space but our funding for it. I truly pray that something happens to where we are able to have these again as they are very helpful for me and my fellow sisters in our journey. PTSD is a second by second issue. With the help of my counselor and the retreats I have graduated to day by day and let me say it has been a very long process. The motto that we are left with is “Trust the Process”. Its hard to trust the process when the ones making the decisions are not listening to the veterans who need these outlets. No disrespect to the male veterans but there is more there for them then there are the women vets. This was the one thing that we had twice a year for 2 days each.

  36. Marcia Teer says:

    My husband was a Viet Nam Vet who committed suicide in 1983 and his name will not appear on any wall or be remembered by any one, but he suffered from PTSD for 20 years. His sons and I suffered and there was no one there to help us. I still have nightmares about his death and its been 31 years since he shot himself. Trust me there is no end to PTSD. Yes life goes on but not quality life. The pain is always there it reduces your joy and happiness. because every time you feel any joy the guilt is there too. How can I smile, how can I be happy when someone I love is dead. Just when you think you can move on it all comes rushing back. So no matter what you call it its real and its overpowering. Also not just veterans but the families who suffer.

  37. Carmen says:

    I love that u addressed PTSD. My husband is a disabled vet 100% permantly disabled with ptsd and brain damage. I am his caregiver. He found out he was adopted 4 yrs after he came home from abu gharib. He was 37 years old. We have spent the last 4 years trying to locate his bio parents names. In the state of ohio, the adoption records are going to he opened next march. This is going to be a huge upheavel in his state of mind and our household. Maybe u should do a show on ohio adoptees and the emotional processes that a person with ptsd is going to go thru. Ive already seen signs of anger, revenge, the fake “i dont care”, etc.

  38. Gale says:

    Dr. Phil, I just watched the rerun of your show on PTSD and our Veteran Administration System (2008). Can you tell me what has changed in the VA since this airing and if the show was productive in accomplishing a change in the VA system?

  39. Ed Spence says:

    Dr. Phil.

    I have been a very avid fan since I first saw your program about two years ago. I truly believe you are one of our greatest voices in the struggle for truth, justice, and fairness. You really are making the world a better place to live – I know several people, including myself who have made much needed life-changing decisions because of your advice.

    I just saw a rerun of your program about the deplorable way our returning veterans from Iraq / Afghanistan have been treated. I share your outrage and I hope you will consider a follow-up show on that subject in the near future. You asked for suggestions re the problem – here’s my two cents worth:

    1. If we haven’t already, fire the current Top Guy in the VA, and probably the next two or three management levels.
    2. Require that, henceforward, all the top VA headquarters and district management be Iraq / Afghanistan vets.
    3. Provide the means, from your web site, for the public to easily bombard the proper government officials with demands for changes to be made.

    Dr. Phil, as I type this, the most recent tragedy (in Fort Hood, TX, ON 4/2/14) is hitting the news. A banner at the bottom of the screen just displayed “22 VETERNS COMMIT SUICIDE EVERY DAY”..…..

    Dr. Phil: HELP US!!! Our vets deserve and need our best level of support for the sacrifices they have made. You are in a unique position to help address this horrific injustice, and in some sense, I think this obligates you to use your huge influence to help get substantial changes made.

    Dr. Phil: You will hear from me again in the future – I have several other things that I hope you will consider using your influence to help change.

    Sincere thanks from an enthusiastic fan,

    Ed Spence

  40. Ed Spence says:

    To Kristina, who commented on 1/26/2014: I hope you get educated on PTSD. You are doing your husband a horrible injustice if you don’t.

  41. Becky Neasbitt says:

    URGENT URGENT URGENT!!! I don’t know who reads this or how often…but I am so desperate for help for my son! He had spent 13 mths in Afganistan active combat..I just hung up the phone with him and he is El Paso TX somewhere on the streets…crying homeless..and talking about CRAZY things about like the incident in Ft Hood…I will here about hi on the news. I am in North Carolina and there is absolutely nothing I can do….PLEASE SOMEONE HAVE ANY ADVICE OR CAN HELP

  42. Becky Neasbitt says:

    I don’t want to lose my son….I don’t know where else to turn!!!

  43. Yolanda says:

    I did not watch your episode regarding PTSD but came across it online and proceeded to view the comments. I was overwhelmed with emotion and sadness for all these people but specially the Veterans who suffer from PTSD. I felt that I could relate to most of the comments. I have been married to a Vietnam Vet for 37 1/2 years, he was in the navy and enlisted when he was still 17. He served on the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Constellation, 4 years. I only met him during his last year in the military, so I didn’t know much of his history in the military when we married in 1976. When I look back at our married life, raising 3 children and starting and maintaining a business, I am in disbelief of my own experience. My husband has been in and out of hospitals and going through these episodes throughout our married life. I blamed everything on his drinking. I recently sat down to actually write our story surrounding his illness. He was first hospitalized in 1973 while in the Navy, about a 2 week stay at Oakland Naval Hospital and his latest hospitalization was in 2010 at Travis Airforce Base. All I know is that his episodes throughout the years started occurring more frequently and lasting longer each time. The VA has always tried to say that he suffers from Bipolar and they don’t acknowledge PTSD, I know they are wrong. He may have Bipolar but he definitely suffers from PTSD. He suffers from anxiety, can’t sleep, panic attacks, depression, delusions and many times he behaves as if he is in the military or is going to reenlist. It is so unfair that we have gone so long without him getting the right help. I think that many veterans from the Vietnam era were very reluctant to seek help or file for compensation because “mental illness” was so tabu. When my husband was hospitalized at Travis Air Force Base, he received the best care to date. These people had a team of a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist and psychiatrist and social worker that met with him almost everyday. They really helped him talk about his illness and understand it. His social worker asked me if he had ever filed for compensation, when I said NO. She said “when he is discharged, you need to take him directly to Fresno VA and file a claim, your husband was Service Connected and should have been taken care of since 1973″. Well we did just that and can you believe it, they approved a measly $129.00 monthly allotment for “ringing of the ears” for him, what a slap in the face. So we have appealed and I am hoping that he gets what he deserves after serving his country and having to deal with so much suffering and pain for so long. Sometimes I feel like the government figures that they will give them something when they figure that person has reached an age where their life expectancy is so minimal. I have to kids that have a pile of college debt so high, they are drowning in it, and rightfully the va should have paid for all that education. Does anyone out there have any suggestions, who can I go to or turn to for help so that they stop jerking my husband around. He served this country and never filed because he “didn’t want a hand out” but as the doctors at Travis told him, he is not getting a hand out, he served his country and the government owes him. He is a self employed Electrical contractor, but when he experiences this illness, it is hard and impossible for him to conduct any business. So, financially life has been a struggle. It is dangerous for him to even attempt to work when he cannot focus. If he was awarded a compensation for his illness, he wouldn’t have to continue to put himself in jeopardy. Help!!

  44. okwpmom2012 says:


    As far as I’m concerned, these people willingly went into HARMS WAY FOR US & when they needed the VA, THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT SPIT IN THEIR FACES & basically KILLED THEM!! They FAILED THEM!!

    This IMHO is flat out MALPRACTICE, A TRAVESTY & an OUTRAGE & a whole lot of other things I would like to say, however I am holding my tongue at the moment because these MONSTERS do not DESERVE the allowance of myself, as a United States Citizen, A VERY PROUD ARMY CSM (Ret) Wife, ULTRA PROUD ARMY Officer Mother & Proud Air Force COL (Ret) Daughter, to choose to be unbecoming, out of RESPECT FOR THEM & those MEN & WOMEN WHO PAID THAT ULTIMATE PRICE WAITING TO SEE A PRIMARY PHYSICIAN & THEN A SPECIALIST!



  45. Jacominna Benson says:

    I have followed Dr. Phil from the first day he appeared on Oprah. I have watched some amazing stories and topics. I have an amazing story about my son Edgar that is a paraplegic. He was 13 years old when he was paralyzed. He has never received any help from the government or any other source. He has and still is working full time in a wheelchair. He does painting as well and also does other things to help his family’s income. He is married and has a son that he put through school. He even played couch for the basket ball team . He is such an amazing man. I have six children, but he is my Hero. He never complains about the pain and discomfort that he has to deal with daily. I wish I could get people to hear and see his story. When I watched the episode of the Moochers, I thanked God again for amazing son. He has never lived in my hose from the time he left home at age 19. He goes deep sea fishing with his brother. Went for an Airboat ride and just everything that he wants to do. He has never stepped back from a problem, he says he is not disabled as he has a brain and can think and do for himself. I love and holds him in high esteem. Just thought I would live to share a little of my amazing son’s life.

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