(Excerpt from The Endless Journey Home by Specialist Joe Collins)
These are both common symptoms of PTSD and can be interrelated. Mood swings are very apparent and easy to notice. Usually, when it comes to PTSD and the soldier begins to experience problems with mood swings, it will almost always appear as aggressive or violent. One thing to keep in mind, as with all these symptoms, if you didn’t notice any problems BEFORE deployment, but begin to notice them after returning home, then you KNOW something isn’t right.
Mood swings can often appear to be mild temper tantrums, or irritability towards others, but can often get worse. The best way to describe why a soldier might deploy appearing “normal” and return from deployment showing any of these traits is described below.
Let’s imagine that a soldier grew up in a hot climate where there are long summers with temperatures usually getting into the low 100′s. If the soldier had never been anywhere hotter than on a 100-degree day, he might think that the 100-degree heat is unbearable.
But now let’s imagine that same soldier has been in the desert for a year or more, with temperatures from 110-130 degrees everyday, (which seems insanely hot normally). Upon return home, the soldier thinks 100 degrees is much easier to bear.
The soldier that deployed and then returned from duty, SEEM like the same person, but the experience has made that person different. What seemed “insane” or “unbearable” or “difficult to adjust to” when first thrown into the war zone, becomes “normal” as soldiers adapt to the events to survive. The “insane” becomes “normal”. Then, when a soldier returns home, all of those events are brought home as invisible baggage.
Violence, aggression and/or risk-taking behavior is part of “everyday life” when a soldier is in a war zone because they are risking their life everyday for their country. So that behavior becomes “normal”. If there isn’t someone to show the soldier that the violence, aggression and risk-taking are “normal” for the war zone, but “extreme” when coming home, then they often don’t know the difference.