We All Need to Help Improve Help For PTSD Patients and Family

224639076_d3370a420f_zUntil the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,–‘Wait and hope’   Alexandre Dumas

1.  From Stacy Bannerman: “Husbands Who Bring the War Home”:

“Kristi and I talked a lot over the next days and weeks—mostly she talked, and I listened. She was seeing a civilian counselor, but spent most of her time at home, shell-shocked and alone. She said her counselor just kept telling her to leave her husband, giving her lectures on the typical cycle of domestic abuse, so she tried to find someone who understood the military and veterans.”

“She called the military chaplain on post, but he never called back. She called the VA, and asked if they had support programs for wives of combat veterans. They didn’t. She called Military One Source, a free counseling assistance program provided by the Department of Defense. But the lady there just started to cry, and told her that she got “these calls all the time. I can’t help you. Unless you authorize a report, I can’t authorize assistance.”

“Kristi reached out to another military spouse that lived off post and was married to an Iraq war veteran. She told her what happened, and her friend said that she and her husband had gotten into so many fights, hitting and screaming and throwing things at each other, that she ended up going to the domestic violence shelter. Staff at the shelter told her that they didn’t have programs for wives of veterans, and that her husband made too much money for her to stay there, anyway.”

“Meanwhile, Mark was staying with friends, or sleeping in his office. After several days of silence, they began talking, but she hasn’t seen him since that night, and at times, she’s wondered if she even wants to. “I miss him, I do,” she said. “We’ve already been apart way too much, but I am so angry, and hurt.”

“Today, Kristi says that Mark’s trying to get help, but it’s not easy. He called a domestic violence hotline, and the person he talked to discouraged him from going to the men’s group because he doesn’t fit the abuser profile. “It’s not like he can make a lot of calls about this when he works for 10 hours every day,” Kristi says. “His insurance won’t pay for him go to a private therapist at night. They said he can only see someone at the base medical center, and he’s not doing that. He can’t really sneak off for three hours in the middle of the day and drive down to the VA, either.”

“Most family victims of veteran violence don’t file reports with the police or their husband’s command. The military is stepping up domestic violence programs and education at military installations, but the pressure on spouses within the active duty and retired military culture and much of the civilian population to remain silent is especially intense during a time a war. Speaking out about veteran violence at home seems to be perceived as more of a betrayal than the violence itself.”

“Even so, since 2003, there has been a 75 percent increase in reports of domestic violence in and around Ft. Hood, where the number of soldiers diagnosed with PTSD rose from 310 in 2004 to 2,445 in 2009.”

2.  From Ann Curley: “Study: PTSD signals longer-term health problems”:

“U. S. soldiers who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder  during combat in Iraq were more likely to experience longer-term health problems including depression, headaches, tinnitis, irritability and memory problems compared with soldiers who experienced only concussions without PTSD. The study concludes that screening for PTSD among troops is critical for identifying and treating long-term health problems. The findings are published in the JAMA Archives of General Psychiatry.”

“Since Operation Desert Storm launched 20  years ago, millions of U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Combat exposure often places troops at risk of suffering psychological trauma and injury when they are exposed to the blasts from improvised explosive devices, according to background information in the study, and traumatic brain injury has often been called the “signature injury” of the conflicts. The study says that most TBIs are mild – better known as concussions. The symptoms of concussion, or MTBI,  include loss of consciousness, loss of memory, dizziness, and headache.”

“Recognizing the increased risk of MTBI and PTSD, the Department of Defense and the VA have instituted post-deployment screening to identify service members who may require further treatment or evaluation. The researchers explain that while other studies have shown that PTSD is linked to long-term health problems and disability, less is known about the long-term effects of concussion on health problems.”

3. From the University of Iowa: “Fear discovery could lead to new interventions for PTSD”:

“This past year, I’ve been treating veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from PTSD. Their lives are marred by fear, and they are oftentimes unable to even leave their home due to the ever-present feeling of danger,” Feinstein said. “In striking contrast, the patient in this study is immune to these states of fear and shows no symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The horrors of life are unable to penetrate her emotional core. In essence, traumatic events leave no emotional imprint on her brain.”

“In examining the role of the amygdala, Feinstein observed and recorded the patient’s responses during exposure to snakes and spiders (two of the most commonly feared animals), during a visit to one of the world’s scariest haunted houses, and while watching a series of horror films. Feinstein also measured the patient’s experience of fear with a large number of standardized questionnaires that probed different aspects of fear, ranging from the fear of death to the fear of public speaking. Additionally, over a three-month period, the patient carried a computerized emotion diary that randomly asked her to rate her current fear level throughout the day.”

“Across all of the scenarios, the patient failed to experience fear. Moreover, in everyday life, she has encountered numerous traumatic events that have threatened her very existence, yet, by her report, have caused no fear.”

“Taken together, these findings suggest that the human amygdala is a pivotal area of the brain for triggering a state of fear,” Feinstein said. “While the patient is able to experience other emotions, such as happiness and sadness, she is unable to feel fear. This suggests that the brain is organized in such a way that a specific brain region – the amygdala – is specialized for processing a specific emotion – fear.”

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