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October 15, 2020

Can Hiking Help Heal Veterans with PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health issue among those who’ve served in the military. Unfortunately, the latest treatment modalities for this psychiatric disorder fail to present uniformed effectiveness. Furthermore, the dropout rates of such treatment options remain high.

Experts agree that certain changes need to be made with regard to these treatment approaches. They further point out that veterans who are struggling with the symptoms of PTSD are in dire need of an evidence-based treatment approach that’s effective and acceptable to them.

Thankfully, a promising, low-cost therapeutic intervention is being tried out by a large number of veterans with PTSD — nature therapy through hiking.


What is PTSD?

According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, PTSD, also known as combat stress or shell shock, is an anxiety disorder that arises after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, including terrorist attacks, military sexual assault, physical assault, accidents, and natural disasters. PTSD manifests itself in different ways — emotional detachment, depression, hypervigilance, reckless behavior, aggression, and panic.

Aside from behavioral changes, those who have PTSD also struggle with physical reactions such as heart palpitations and uncontrollable shaking, in response to something that triggers a memory of the traumatic event.

It’s normal for an average person’s body to be in shock after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. However, such a normal response turns into PTSD when the person gets emotionally and mentally “stuck” to the traumatic event for an extended period of time. This implies that the road to recovery from PTSD will involve a steady transition out of the person’s mental and emotional combat zone until they reach the point where they become “unstuck.”


Statistics for PTSD among Veterans

It’s important to note that PTSD doesn’t exclusively occur in vets who experienced armed conflict for an extended period. PTSD also affects those who engaged in brief combat missions, as well as those who were exposed to enhanced military training methods.

Research shows that 30 out of every 100 Vietnam War veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives. Furthermore, 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans struggle with PTSD symptoms every year and 11 to 20 out of every 100 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans experience PTSD each year.


How Nature Therapy through Hiking Can Help Heal Veterans with PTSD

Here are three reasons why nature therapy through hiking has been found effective to heal veterans afflicted with PTSD:

  1. Hiking in groups replicates the positive parts of combat.

Most veterans who engage in nature therapy usually prefer to go hiking in small, tight groups. Doing so reminds them of the best parts of combat, which include teamwork, camaraderie, taking risks and facing adversity as a group out there in the wilderness, way beyond the borders of their own comfort zones.

  1. Exposure to nature calms the mind and allows one to process the traumatic event.

According to a study in 2015, time spent in nature can effectively calm the portion of the human brain that is directly connected to mental illness. Furthermore, most veterans confirm that the long hikes allow them to process the harrowing experiences that took place when they were in the military. This was especially helpful for those who experienced an abrupt and difficult transition from deployment.

  1. Hiking cultivates positive energy.

Veterans with PTSD who enjoy hiking in the wilderness claim that they noticed marked improvements in their self-confidence because the activity fosters a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment as they connect with people with the same background. In fact, many of them have confirmed that hiking diminished their reliance on alcohol and medications.


Donate a Vehicle to Help the Veteran Community in Your Area

By donating a vehicle you no longer need or use to Veteran Car Donations, you’ll help us provide much-needed funding for the veteran-focused programs and services of our IRS-determined 501(c)3 charity partners. This will help these nonprofits in providing the veterans in your area with financial assistance, free mental health care and medical treatment, employment opportunities, family support, and other essential services.

As our way of thanking you, we’ll have your car hauled away for free. We’ll also send you the tax-deductible sales receipt of your vehicle following its sale. You can use this receipt to reduce your taxable income.

You can donate whatever type of vehicle you can afford to give away. We accept even those that need a lot of work. We will be able to collect your donated vehicle wherever you are in the United States since our vehicle donation program covers the entire country.

If you have questions about our donation process, don’t hesitate to call us at 877-594-5822 or leave us a message online. For more information, visit our FAQs page.


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Today’s a great day to give back to our nation’s struggling heroes. If you’re ready to make a difference in their lives, call us at 877-594-5822 or fill out our online donation form.  Donate your extra vehicle now!

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