Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mesothelioma
For veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can evoke painful memories and interrupt normal routines. PTSD rates among veterans vary between 11 percent and 30 percent for those who fought in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Desert Storm as well as the Vietnam War. Other veterans may develop PTSD as a result of their experience with mesothelioma. The mental side effects of these life-threatening events can last for years if left untreated.
The mental health of its vets remains a priority for the VA. In many cases, PTSD makes it harder for the individual to care for themselves and they may begin to neglect responsibilities. Often, these behaviors result in greater healthcare costs. For patients in cancer treatments, this behavior can be especially dangerous. Therefore, patients’ mental health complications should be addressed through proper treatment.
Veterans who were diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a type of mental health disorder that some people may develop after enduring or witnessing a life-threatening event like combat, sexual assault, natural disaster, or car accident. After a traumatic experience, a person may have feelings of depression, anxiety, and grief. Likewise, they may have bouts of insomnia, relive painful memories, and feel disconnected from their life. Typically, people with PTSD start to develop symptoms up to three months after trauma occurs.
Aging veterans may still go through symptoms of PTSD – even 50 or more years after the initial trigger. Retirement may give vets more time to think about traumatic events in their past. As a result, a person may begin to exhibit PTSD symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Avoiding situations and activities that remind you of the experience
- Aggressive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior
- Becoming easily startled
- Depressed mood or anxiety
- Detachment from others
- Drinking alcohol to cope
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Recurrent nightmares
- Trouble sleeping
Severe PTSD symptoms are similar to physical and mental side effects of traumatic brain injuries (like a concussion).
Anxiety, fear, and dread are common emotions after being diagnosed with any form of cancer or mesothelioma. As treatment progresses, these feelings may worsen and interfere with the patient’s daily routine. Persistent negative emotions that interrupt the patient’s life may be a side effect of a treatable mental health condition.
Events that may trigger PTSD in cancer patients include:
- Diagnosis of cancer
- Fear of recurring cancer and new tumors
- Pain and other debilitating side effects
- Staying in the hospital
- Tests and test result appointments
Cancer-related post-traumatic stress is different for every patient. The type and intensity of side effects could change over time.
Effects of PTSD on Treatment
The side effects of PTSD and depression could be life-threatening for cancer patients if left untreated. Avoiding places that trigger anxiety is a common symptom of PTSD. If a patient begins to skip appointments in an attempt to prevent re-experiencing their trauma, they ultimately hurt themselves.
Refusing to take medication or see a doctor are other potential effects of PTSD on a patient’s health. Likewise, having trouble sleeping and insomnia could affect a person’s ability to recover from treatment. Moreover, abusing substances (like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes to cope with stress) can cause health complications that reduce the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies.
Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.
Resources for Veterans
Usually, the primary resources for veterans to address their PTSD are found within the VA healthcare system. The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24-7 for vets in need of immediate support. Call 800-273-8255 or visit their website to talk to someone online.
Other mental health resources for veterans include the options below.
- Veterans who qualify for health and/or disability benefits from the VA may use these resources to treat their PTSD and other health problems.
- Public health benefits like Medicaid and Medicare may provide mental health care options.
- Private insurance plans may cover mental health treatment and medication, depending on the type of plan.
- Military Insurance and other financial help for veterans
Contact your VA health or private insurance representative for details of your coverage.