(Excerpt from The Endless Journey Home by Specialist Joe Collins)
Anxiety can be tied in to nearly every symptom of PTSD. This is another symptom that often leads to misdiagnosis. A misdiagnosis can lead to the wrong type of medication, which may seem to help at first, but often can lead to addiction problems and most anxiety medications are more of a band-aid solution and do not really solve the problem.
The strongest symptom of anxiety for PTSD sufferers is remaining in a constant state of hypervigilance (on the alert). This happens at a subconscious level. Often, the returned soldier is not even aware that they are stuck in this hyperactive state. They will sometimes seem on edge and always be prepared as if something is about to happen.
Good warning signs for this is that the soldier will never seem to be calm or in a relaxed state, especially in a public place. They may appear to constantly be looking around and sizing things up.
Another good sign is if you go to a restaurant to eat, the soldier will always request to sit in a corner or with his/her back to a wall. From personal experiences and those of others who have suffered from PTSD, if put in a situation when UNABLE to sit in a comfort zone (a back/corner booth), then the soldier will feel uncomfortable throughout the entire meal while people walk behind him/her and the soldier will be constantly looking around feeling uncomfortable or insecure.
Other symptoms of anxiety are shortness of breath in stressful places or situations, rapid heart rate, muscle tension (often in the jaw area, which could lead to grinding of the teeth and severe headaches) and severe stomach problems.
Anxiety often leads to many avoidance activities and in some cases can be the cause of isolation. For example, in many cases returning soldiers who are suffering from PTSD will stop watching news about the war or even can’t handle watching movies or TV shows with war in them. These things trigger anxiety levels that go “through the roof” and bring back unwanted or unpleasant memories that they are not ready to deal with or face yet.
It’s very important to keep a watchful eye for these symptoms because they are easy to notice at first, but if immediate action is not taken, a domino effect will occur at a rapid pace and make it much harder to help the soldier the longer it goes on.