January 28, 2015 – Years ago, there was no such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no doubt it existed then as it does today, however, the medical community had yet to recognize the disorder as a serious illness. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PTSD was first recognized in 1980, when it was officially added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
How Many Veterans Report PTSD?
Currently, roughly twenty percent of Iraq and Afghan war veterans have reported symptoms of PTSD and/or depression, though true figures are likely higher.
According to the VA, serving in combat triggers more PTSD cases than most other traumas except rape. Luckily, modern PTSD treatments are becoming more and more effective in helping veterans manage their symptoms. Doctors with degrees in psychology and who specialize in mental health have come up with several ways to help veterans cope with PTSD.
While experiencing combat overseas is an obvious potential trigger for PTSD in veterans, sexual assault and harassment are also leading causes of the disorder among those serving in the US military.
Effective Modern PTSD Treatments
Prolonged-exposure therapy is one treatment device that has proven effective in treating PTSD in veterans in the past. Using PET scans, doctors assist veterans suffering from PTSD in recalling and visualizing the traumatic events that led to their diagnosis. Though sometimes painful, this process is gradual and has been shown to help veterans learn to process the events in a more productive, healthy way. A University of Florida psychology degree online course also says this method has proved useful for more than just soldiers.
Cognitive-processing therapy works in a similar way, but places less emphasis on exposure and recall, and more emphasis on changing a patient’s current thought process through behavior modification. By helping veterans with PTSD to alter the way they think about their post-trauma world or their perceived responsibility for the trauma itself, CPT promotes a healthy acceptance of reality versus allowing harmful, irrational thoughts to take over.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), both PET and CPT have received an “A” grade in terms of their effectiveness, as rated by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS).
In closing, it should be noted there are many other approaches to treating PTSD in vets, including medications such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and even virtual reality re-creations of combat trauma. While it may be decades before doctors can agree on the most effective methods, it is encouraging that so many resources are being devoted to helping veterans overcome this often debilitating disorder.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.