The War Within: Eyewitness News investigates PTSD, Part I

The War Within: Eyewitness News investigates PTSD, Part I
* Editor's Note: This is an installment in an Eyewitness News special report on post–traumatic stress disorder. For months, Eyewitness News has been documenting personal accounts of the devastating disorder. Many military veterans have never spoken publicly about their agonizing problems.

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It's called PTSD, short for post–traumatic stress disorder.

For months, Eyewitness News has been documenting personal accounts of the devastating disorder. Many military veterans have never spoken publicly about their agonizing problems.

"I don't want to dream about it over there," 46-year-old Army National Guard veteran Roger Brown told us while sitting on his couch in his Bakersfield home.

At first, he appears like any happily married man. Until, you ask him how he's doing.

"I got to hurry up and get where I'm going. It's not a very good feeling. It's not." Roger told us while driving in his car on the way to the Bakersfield VA Clinic.

After 15 months as an Army auto mechanic witnessing the horrors of war in Iraq, Roger came home to Bakersfield depressed, anxious, a completely different person. His diagnosis: a classic form of PTSD.

"You'll know when you have it. You'll know when you just lose control. You can't sleep, you sweat, you're constantly looking behind your back," says Roger.

Roger's wife Margie has stuck by her husband. She is struggling to understand his condition.

"4th of July, people behind us were letting off M-80's. He had dosed off in the chair. He literally flew out of the chair and crouched down and looked around it. It took him a few seconds to realize he was at home," says Margie Brown.

According to the Veterans Administration, roughly one out of every ten Iraqi or Afghan veterans suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Locally, the Bakersfield VA Clinic treats nearly 150 from the two most recent wars. Over 100 vets total seek help. The numbers are growing.

"Many people think of PTSD as a normal reaction to an abnormal event, " says Doctor Rachel Kimerling. She is a clinical psychologist at the National Center for PTSD in Menlo Park, near San Jose. She is also a nationally renown expert in the field of PTSD treatment.

"We can think of it as the mind's way of processing information that we don't expect an we're not used to. So, after witnessing violence or experiencing a threat to your own life, the difficulty in processing that can lead to people to have repeated recollections, thoughts, dreams about it, very distressing." says Kimerling.

During the Civil War, it was labeled as "Nostalgia or Soldier's Heart."

In World War One it was called, "Shell Shocked." In World War Two, it was labeled as "Combat Fatigue."

But the symptoms are always the same: easily startled, becoming emotionally numb, losing interest in things once enjoyable, irritability, aggressive or violent behavior, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and flashbacks, reliving an event throughout the day and in nightmares.

For Roger Brown, his nightmare is the aftermath of Americans killed on the battlefield.

"Do you think he'll ever return back to who he was before he left?" we asked.

"Probably not. He's probably going to be different for the rest of his life. We've had to learn how to adjust to deal with things."

Roger purposely didn't get to know anyone too closely while serving in Iraq. Today, he corresponds with no one. He's on several medications to help deal with the disorder. Despite his struggle with PTSD, he remains in the Army National Guard.