Welcome back to the special Military Mondays series focusing on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you missed last week’s post, it can be found here:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is very real. It is just as real as physical wounds that we can see. PTSD is not something to be taken lightly, it ranges from mild to severe, and for many it is chronic. But despite the suffering and the hurt, there is hope for a better future. So this week I will give an overview on some of the treatments available. By no means is this an exhaustive list, and not every treatment will work for every veteran suffering with PTSD. But I wanted to point readers to resources available should you ever need them. Please also share your favorite resources!
There are several treatments in the category of psychotherapy, which Dr. Hoge in Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior outlines:
1) Cognitive behavioral therapy, which includes exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring. With exposure therapy, the veteran talks or writes about his traumatic experiences with a counselor. The traumatic memories will at first cause distress, but over time many have experienced success and healing in some way. Cognitive restructuring is where the veteran analyzes and reframes thoughts and reactions, in order to develop new ways of approaching situations and himself.
2) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or simply EMDR. This one is the most fascinating to me. Dr. Hoge explains it as “body awareness and relaxation exercises, exposure therapy, and cognitive restructuring….The eye movements are thought to stimulate both sides of the brain to help integrate traumatic memories.” (p. 195) A video demonstration of EMDR can be viewed HERE.
3) Stress inoculation training is very similar to cognitive behavioral therapies, but it also integrates “muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and ‘stopping’ certain thought patterns.’ “ (p. 195)
The Veterans Affairs website says that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) “are the only FDA approved medications for PTSD.” Approved drugs need to be taken with care and correct dosages. Examples of SSRIs are Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac.
There are many alternative therapies for PTSD which do not have official statistics attached to how effective they are, but they can prove to be just as helpful as “traditional” therapies – and perhaps even more so. They also are used in tandem with the treatments listed above. They include, but aren’t limited to, herbal supplements, low-voltage electrical stimulation, pet therapy, massage, acupuncture, and music therapy. Spiritual counseling for people of faith is another vital part of the healing process.
While not officially a “therapy,” veterans also benefit from connecting with other veterans. They are the only ones who can understand. They are the ones who can completely relate to a story of combat – to the horror, the helplessness, the rush of adrenaline, the battle between life and death. Veterans can also benefit from sharing their stories with their loved ones and anyone who is truly interested in hearing them. It is important for the listener to not push stories out of them or ask pressing questions, but to listen with an open, non-judgmental mind. I, personally, will never tire of hearing The Warrior’s stories, and I always welcome them. Even when I hear a repeated story, there is something for me to learn; there is another insight I can take away and ponder; and I gain a new level of appreciation, respect, and love for him.
At the end of my first post, I mentioned the organization Make It Visible. They are sponsoring an interactive way for the public to get involved with helping veterans with PTSD and TBI, for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. Please visit www.crowdrise.com/IFHFMakeItVisible for more information!
Resources of the Week:
Not Alone – a non-profit that provides confidential, no-cost programs and services to veterans and their families dealing with PTSD
Give an Hour – another non-profit that provides free mental health counseling for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families
National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) – providing cutting edge treatments for veterans suffering with PTSD and TBI
God Squad blog post on PTSD – written by Chaplain John Potter