Sunday, January 8, 2012

The PTSD Issue: Not All Wounds Are Visible

"To often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential of turning a life around."---Leo Buscaglia

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is finally getting the attention it long deserved. The purpose of this issue of Dedicated To Heroes is to offer more information on PTSD and the available resources. So let's take a moment to start from the beginning.

What is PTSD?

In general, PTSD can be described as a severe anxiety disorder that can occur or can develop after exposure to a terrifying or life-threatening event in which grave physical harm occurred, or was threatened. These events or ordeals include, but are not limited to, military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents and physical or sexual assault in childhood or adulthood. Specific to military experiences, PTSD was historically also described as battle fatigue, shell shock and traumatic war neurosis.

What is the Incidence  and Prevalence Among Military Personnel and Veterans?
  • Approximately 31% of Vietnam Veterans experience PTSD.
  • Among Gulf War Veterans the prevalence was 12.1%.
  • Approximately 13.8-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans experience PTSD.
(Sources: VA, USC School of Social Work,, News Journal)

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms can be terrifying. It can disrupt your life and make it difficult to continue normal daily activities and routines. Symptoms can start immediately after an event or manifest itself weeks, months or years later. Moreover, symptoms may also appear and reappear. It is generally accepted a person has PTSD if the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause great distress and interfere with work and/or home life.

Major Symptoms Include:
  • Guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Anger
  • Flashbacks
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations
  • Hopelessness
  • Reliving the Stressful Event
  • Hyperarousal
  • Problem Focusing
  • Poor Memory
  • Shame
  • Despair
  • Startle Response
(Sources: VA, USC School of Social Work)

What are the Current Treatments of PTSD?

Current treatments for PTSD Supported By Clinical Research and Data Include:
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (considered very successful)
  • Medications can also be very effective (there is no specific medication for PTSD. Generally, psychotropic drugs have been successful in reducing symptoms)
  • Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy

Where To Get Help?

The following resources are available for those seeking help:

  • All VA centers provide PTSD care
  • Vet Center near where you live (call 877.927.8387 for locations of vet centers near where you live).
  • Military One Source (call 1.800.342.9647 for confidential assistance)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (call 1.800.273.8255)
  • The PTSD Diary
  • PTSD Coach App Available on ITune and the Android Market at
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Private Clinics and Facilities
  • Employee Assistance Programs

How Can You Help Someone with PTSD?

PTSD affects families and friends as well as the individual experiencing the stress disorder. So how can you help? You can do the following:

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
  • Learn about PTSD yourself so you can understand what the person is experiencing.
  • Talk to the person and listen carefully.
  • Invite your friend to take part in positive experiences that will help distract them from their stressful feelings.
  • Remind the person that with help and treatment---he/she will get better.
(Source: National Institute of Mental Health)

End Note:

Military personnel and veterans are not the only groups that experience PTSD. Police officers, firefighters, First Responders and medical personnel can also suffer from post traumatic stress.

Fortunately, we've been making greater strides in the detection and treatment of PTSD. Research is on-going. We're making improvements in recognizing pre-trauma, trauma and post-trauma risk factors. Screening and treatments are improving.  Mental health professionals and doctors are becoming more educated in both screening and treatment. Just as important, we're all becoming more knowledgeable of this specific stress disorder.

1 comment:

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