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PTSD Treatment – Bringing Veterans All the Way Home

January 31, 2014

shutterstock_129452891Media attention often focuses on dramatic instances of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans, yet most people do not fully understand the condition or the options for treating it. Most individuals experience stress after a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, physical assault, or military combat. When such stress continues over a long period, or becomes a destructive force in a person’s life, it may result in PTSD.

A 2006 study of troops who served in Iraq showed that more than 80% of them reported being the target of enemy fire, 60% had been ambushed or otherwise attacked, and nearly four out of five had known someone seriously injured or killed, which means that the majority of the troops had experiences that could quite easily predispose them to PTSD.

Signs of PTSD include anxiety, substance abuse, persistent flashbacks to the traumatic event(s), hyper-arousal or -alertness in response to perceived danger(s), feelings of guilt or shame, and avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event(s).

Effective treatments for PTSD include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR). Two types of CBT in particular have demonstrated potential in assisting veterans: cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.

Cognitive processing therapy focuses on exploring the origins of a veteran’s feelings about the traumatic event, becoming aware of the impact these feelings have on daily life, and learning to make conscious choices about how to deal with such emotions. Prolonged exposure therapy involves gaining increased control of one’s feelings by gradually engaging in real-world situations that trigger a traumatic response, discussing the trauma, and retraining breathing to assist in an improved response to stress.

EMDR taps into the affected individual’s own physiological information-processing system to revisit traumatic images while simultaneously focusing the eyes on another stimulus. Often yielding rapid results, EMDR is designed to facilitate the processing of and coping with traumatic memories while reinforcing positive feelings and images.

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