Tips to Cope with PTSD, According to a Gulf War Veteran

Anthony focuses on three realms: his physical, mental, and social health.

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When Anthony Aiello returned from the Gulf War, he recalls that the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) began pretty quickly. Fireworks and crowds were triggering, and he began relying on painkillers and alcohol to get through life. To make it worse, he was dealing with chronic pain due to nerve agent exposure from the war. Luckily, something changed in his life that made him want to get help and learn to cope with PTSD.

“I think the most dramatic effect of my son’s birth was that my nightmares just disappeared,” says Aiello. “It was like someone had flipped a switch off.”

Seeking Help for PTSD

Aiello says his son’s birth helped give him a switch in his focus and priorities. It wasn’t that his new son “cured” his PTSD. In fact, when his son was a year old, Aiello was still dealing with suicide ideation. It wasn’t until his wife gave him an ultimatum that he began seeking help. Learn more about what inspired Aiello to seek help for PTSD here.

His wife’s ultimatum made him realize he needed to be there for his wife and his son. He realized how his PTSD and suicide ideation was affecting them as well, and he didn’t want to hurt them. He immediately began searching for therapists, especially ones who specialize in helping people cope with PTSD.

His Tips to Cope with PTSD

In addition to therapy, Aiello says there are three “spaces” he focuses on to cope with PTSD:

  • The physical space: He finds that it helps to stay active, eat healthy and balanced meals, stay hydrated, and do yoga.
  • The headspace: He recommends meditation, and he believes that soldiers in particular are trained to benefit from meditation. He also recommends a therapy dog.
  • The social space: Aiello believes isolation is the worst thing a veteran can do for their mental health. He recommends finding a support system, whether it’s loved ones, a support group, or a therapy dog. “You have to stay connected,” he says.

Learning to cope with PTSD may take months or even years. That’s why it’s important to work with a mental health professional who can help guide you and encourage you. Get more information about treating PTSD: