Psychologist at WVSOM discusses fireworks and effects on PTSD

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LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) — With Fourth of July weekend coming up, people are already shopping for sparklers and firecrackers to light up the sky.

While this can be a fun tradition for many families, it can also be a harsh experience for people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Fireworks involve loud, explosive sounds and visual inputs that look like fire and explosion,” Dr. Gretchen Lovett said.

Lovett is a psychologist at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. She said fireworks can trigger someone’s PTSD due to the loud noises and bright lights.

“These are very common triggers for people who’ve experienced a life threatening event involving explosive ammunition,” Lovett said.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, eight percent of the adult population suffers from PTSD. She said when people experience PTSD, they often aren’t in control of their emotions.

“When someone feels threatened or in danger, that’s a normal part of our autonomic nervous system, to kick in automatically to a fight or flight response,” Lovett said. “So somebody could go over to a neighbor who is setting off fireworks with concern and really not in their normal state of mind.”

Dr. Lovett said there are ways you can de-escalate the situation if interacting with someone experiencing PTSD on the holiday.

The most important thing to do is keep yourself and your voice calm.

“Being accepting and aware of other people’s struggles, responding in a friendly tone of voice,” Lovett said. “‘Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was bothering you. Is there something we can do to work together here? We’re going to finish up in about an hour.'”

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