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UCF Professor: Fireworks Can Be A Trigger For Vets With PTSD


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For combat veterans with PTSD, fireworks can sometimes trigger flashbacks.

It’s July Fourth weekend, and that means fireworks. But one University of Central Florida psychologist warns that fireworks can be a trigger for post-traumatic stress disorder.

UCF Psychology Professor Deborah Beidel runs a free PTSD clinic that’s treated more than 200 veterans. She said combat veterans with PTSD can have flashbacks from fireworks.

“Veterans will tell us they have to hit the ground when they hear fireworks,” Beidel said. “That continuing fireworks triggers all their symptoms and creates flashback. So they may hear the sound of fireworks and have a flashback to being back in Iraq or Afghanistan and being on the side of the road looking at the devastation from an IED explosion.”

UCF Professor Deborah Beidel said fireworks can be a trigger for combat veterans with PTSD.

UCF Professor Deborah Beidel said fireworks can be a trigger for combat veterans with PTSD.

Sights, sounds and smells can be a trigger for PTSD. For combat veterans, fireworks meet all three criteria – and you can’t escape them once they start.

In a Facebook thread about PTSD and fireworks, one vet described running out of a baseball game because he didn’t expect the fireworks. Another says her husband freaked out the other night when they drove by a neighbor’s house who was lighting off fireworks.

Beidel says that’s part of the problem: Fireworks don’t just happen on the holiday itself. “Now it’s three days before, two days after, and it’s not just the community fireworks, it’s the people setting things off in the neighborhood.”

If you have a veteran living in your neighborhood, Beidel recommends talking to them if you plan to launch fireworks.

 


WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by Florida Hospital.

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Abe Aboraya

About Abe Aboraya

Health Reporter / Special Project: ProPublica

Abe Aboraya started writing for newspapers in High School. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe ... Read Full Bio »

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