Some say that fireworks are as American as apple pie, particularly during the 4th of July, when celebrations around the country often culminate with a large fireworks display. For most people, these fireworks are the culmination of a joyful day and add to the happiness of the holiday. Unfortunately, for others, these fireworks can represent a re-traumatization. Fireworks cause major problems, particularly for veterans or other victims of violence. If an individual suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fireworks — particularly during the 4th of July — can cause extensive psychological pain.

What is PTSD, and what does it have to do with fireworks? More importantly, how can you manage these issues or work with loved ones to do the same? Let’s take a look.

PTSD and Fireworks

PTSD is a psychological disorder specifically caused by trauma or a series of traumatic events. Victims of crimes or abuse and individuals who have experienced accidents often develop PTSD. This disorder is more common among members of certain populations, such as veterans.

One common symptom of PTSD is a forced reliving of an experience and an inability or difficulty in managing these forced memories. Adding to the trauma is that certain events may trigger these memories. For veterans who have seen combat, fireworks can be a common cause of PTSD.

Fireworks, of course, have certain characteristics. These include a loud boom and a shock wave. A natural evolutionary response to these feelings is to tense up and feel as if one is under attack. Unfortunately, many military veterans associate these sounds and feelings with ones experienced during combat. This can trigger a series of physical and emotional responses, leading to major panic and psychological distress. 

Veterans have a higher level of PTSD than almost any other population segment. This increased level of trauma has occurred because these individuals have experienced certain events that most of us cannot even begin to comprehend. Of course, military service isn’t the only source of PTSD: Other factors, such as childhood trauma, can lead to PTSD. Click here to read more about the devastating impact childhood trauma can have on your psyche. 

The 4th of July and Fireworks

For individuals like veterans, these are not minor issues. Many veterans experience these difficulties throughout the year. Fireworks are more popular at some times, such as during some holidays and over summers. 

The history of using fireworks to celebrate America’s founding goes back to 1777 when fireworks were used as part of events that honored the country’s formation. The use of fireworks to celebrate spread from Philadelphia to the rest of the country, and now fireworks are virtually unavoidable. They are used in nearly every civic commemoration of the event, and many individuals — particularly people in states where fireworks are legal — set off their own fireworks. This makes the problem even more ubiquitous for veterans seeking to avoid fireworks.

Independence Day is one of many holidays that can cause trauma and psychological challenges. Christmas is, sadly, another example: Click here to read more about challenges caused by Christmas and how you can manage your addiction recovery during this time. 

How You Can Manage PTSD and Fireworks

Veterans need to know they aren’t alone in managing fireworks on July 4. Fortunately, trained professionals have developed a series of tools and techniques that they can use to manage their PTSD symptoms on this very trying day. Examples include:

  • Proactively developing a Fourth of July plan. This planning may involve retreating to a secluded room, buying earphones, purchasing noise-canceling devices, and asking neighbors if they plan on using fireworks.
  • Utilizing therapeutic techniques, including deep breathing or meditation. 
  • Speaking with your doctor about temporarily using medication to manage your symptoms. 
  • Reminding yourself that there is nothing wrong with your experience and that you are simply engaging in an experience your brain is hardwired to endure. There should be no shame or judgment in what you feel, and you should give yourself grace when experiencing anxiety or panic due to fireworks.
  • Discussing plans and strategies with your loved ones and help them identify ways to give you support during this difficult period. This conversation will empower them and help you create a plan to manage the difficult circumstances of the day. 
  • Speaking with a therapist or using group therapy to discuss specific, personalized solutions that you can use.

Get the Help You Need

If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, you need to know that there can be better days ahead. At Transformations Mending Fences, we specialize in PTSD treatment and have ample experience in working with veterans to ensure that these brave individuals can recover from the traumas they endured. 

Ready to learn more? Contact us today, and learn how we can help you treat your PTSD and live your best life.