Hot dogs, cherry pie, and fireworks are all staples when it comes to the 4th of July, but what may be a fun form of celebration for some could be a reminder of traumatic events for others.
PTSD, Fireworks, & The Fourth of July
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that occurs after a traumatic event such as war, abuse, or a natural disaster and affects about 8 million adults each year.1 Symptoms often include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and depression that may be brought on suddenly by something that reminds the person of their traumatic experience. Mental health care is often needed to help the person manage their symptoms and start moving forward with their life.
With loud noises, bright lights, and the gathering of a lot of people, fireworks can lead to July 4th PTSD. For those who have witnessed gun violence or Veterans who have been in combat, the boom of the fireworks may remind them of gunshots and their traumatic experiences. PTSD light sensitivity is also a common problem, so the flashing colors from the fireworks may make symptoms worse. Even large crowds can be a trigger in some cases.
What to Do About a Loved One’s PTSD on the Fourth of July
If someone you care about has PTSD, it is hard to know what to do, especially during more triggering events like the Fourth of July, but just being aware of how your holiday celebrations could affect their mental health could make all the difference.
Just because someone has PTSD, doesn’t mean you can’t still use fireworks. Just be mindful of that person. Give them plenty of notice so they can mentally prepare or distance themselves from the fireworks if they choose. If possible, set off fireworks in a more secluded place and try to avoid any of the over-the-top noisemakers.
It is also important not to tease the person about their mental health or brush it off. PTSD can seriously interfere with someone’s life, but because of the stigma surrounding it, some people will never come forward to get treatment for PTSD. Your support and understanding could be the gentle push your loved one needs to finally get help and start moving forward with their life.
How to Cope with July 4th PTSD
For some people, their PTSD and the Fourth of July go hand in hand, but it may not have to be this way. If fireworks on the 4th are a PTSD trigger for you, try these tips to avoid an attack and manage your symptoms.
It can be hard to avoid fireworks completely on the Fourth of July, but if you stay inside, you will better be able to muffle the sound as well as avoid the flashing lights. This doesn’t mean you need to isolate yourself at home for the whole day, but at night when the festivities begin, it is okay to slip inside until they are over.
The good thing about fireworks on the 4th of July if you have PTSD is that you know they are coming. Take time to mentally prepare yourself in the days leading up to the holiday. When the trigger is expected, it will be less of a shock and have less power. You can even start planning for the Fourth. Find out where the big firework displays are happening in town, think about where you can go to be more comfortable when the festivities begin and focus on ways you may be able to distract yourself.
Seek Support from Others
You do not need to struggle with 4th of July PTSD alone. Reach out to your loved ones for support and be up-front with them about your concerns. If they know in advance, you can be warned of triggering situations ahead of time and plan accordingly. They may also alter their plans to help you feel more comfortable. If you do start to feel triggered, your friends and family will also be there to comfort you.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Because PTSD and the Fourth of July can go hand in hand for some, it is important to know what to do if you started feeling upset or overwhelmed. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, mindfulness, visualization, and meditation may help you address rising feelings of anxiety or panic before they escalate out of control.
Everyone is different. While fireworks on the Fourth of July can be triggering for some people, others may be alarmed by someone walking up to them in a grocery store. No matter what your triggers are, at Vertava Health we don’t want you to have to deal with PTSD on your own. We offer mental health treatment for Veterans and others who are struggling with this and other conditions. These programs provide you with the tools you need to learn to better manage your symptoms so you can move on with your life. Reach out to us today to learn more or to get started.