I should avoid high-risk dangerous sensation-seeking behaviors such as driving aggressively or recklessly or what are called “chasing adrenaline-rush behaviors.”
Another form of high-risk behavior is engaging in uncontrollable gambling. Visit the website www.gamblersanonymous.com and the 20 question self-assessment test to determine if gambling behaviors are problematic for you and what productive steps you can take (call 1-888-GA-HELPS).
Some forms of sensation-seeking behaviors have been found to bolster resilience. For example, an organization Paralyzed Veterans of America (www.pva.org) have created thrill seeking extreme sport activities such as hang gliding, mountain climbing and downhill skiing, as a means to therapeutically challenge and engage paralyzed service members in relatively safe supervised adrenaline-charged activities. Thus, sensation-seeking behaviors can be both a risk factor (e.g., riding motorcycles without helmets) or a protective resilience-enhancing factor.
As an example of risks, consider the findings that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for military personnel in their first year home from the war. More veterans die from car accidents than from suicide. The service members dying tend to be young, unmarried males. They tend to come from the infantry ranks, or gun crews or in seamanship roles. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are 75% more likely to die in car accidents than the general population.
Veterans engage in more risky behaviors—speeding, alcohol, not wearing seat belts, or not wearing motorcycle helmets. These veterans are trained to drive aggressively while in combat and in a hyper vigilant manner. They may employ driving techniques taught in Iraq such as speeding up at intersections to avoid gunfire or scanning the roadside for danger instead of watching the road ahead or driving through stop signs.
A recent survey indicated that while deployed 50% said they were anxious when other cars approached quickly, 23% had driven through stop signs, and 20% were anxious during normal driving. These driving habits carry over during post-deployment and put them at risk. Moreover, they may think they are “invincible.” They have gone through combat and they may believe that “they can live through anything.” In addition, the conditions of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries could contribute to erratic and risky driving, as well as the use of medications and self-medications (using alcohol or illegal drugs) to cope with symptoms. A Safe Driving Training program has now begun to increase veterans and family members’ awareness of driving accidents, to encourage use of seat belts, and re-train drivers and to identify where additional help is needed. Driving retraining programs teach service members how to regain composure by training them to identify those things that make them anxious and learning how to use Tactical Breathing Procedures (See Action #41) and Self-talk Procedures (Action #42).