Having PTSD means chemical changes have occurred in the brain that result in a continuously active state of arousal for the individual affected. This translates to the person who has PTSD being farther along on the continuum of anger than most people. For family members, it can mean having a parent who flies off the handle with little provocation, and it can result in children growing up “walking on eggs” so they don’t trigger those angry outbursts. It can lead to an uncomfortable, even tragic, lifestyle.
When Jeremy contacted DNL, he was hoping he could find a way to become more self-aware that his anger was escalating so he could intervene before things got out of hand. As a former Marine, he was proud of his ability to react quickly and efficiently when under pressure, but it worried him that his children appeared to be somewhat fearful around him. He had a service dog that assisted him by waking him when he was having nightmares; he asked if DNL could recommend someone to help him train his dog to alert him to his increasing anger before it reached explosive levels.
Jeremy was able to identify some of the behaviors he exhibited prior to losing control of his anger. He would bounce his leg and his voice would begin to rise in volume and pitch as his anger increased. Using these cues, his DNL worker, a certified dog trainer, wrote a training plan for Jeremy to teach his dog to alert him before his anger got out of control.
The dog was taught to respond to the increasing signs of frustration Jeremy exhibited by lying down in front of him and covering his eyes with his paws. This signaled to Jeremy that his behavior was escalating, while at the same time, making him laugh at the dog’s behavior! His laughter helped divert his anger, and knowing his anger was getting out of control before he blew up, helped Jeremy stop his outburst before they occurred. Jeremy’s dog lets him know now when his anger is escalating. His home has become a safer, more peaceful place where the entire family can relax and enjoy each other without fear.
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