The Defense Health Agency (DHA) acknowledges Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an ‘invisible wound of war’.
Within the DHA’s clinical support division, John Davison serves as a clinical psychologist; he is also the chief of condition-based speciality care. Terri Moon Cronk a reporter with DOD News provides an insightful synopsis of the interview with John Davison in the following article
DOD Observes National PTSD Awareness Day – By Terri Moon Cronk
The Senate established PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 following then Sen. Kent Conrad’s efforts to designate a day of awareness as tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour of duty in the Iraq War.
Biel’s birthday, June 27, was chosen to mark PTSD Awareness Day and honor his memory.
– Davison, quoted by Terri Moon Cronk
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Davison [24Jun2015] emphasized the importance for Service members, veterans and their family and friends of recognizing the signs and symptoms of PTSD. Returning members may not talk about traumatizing experiences, but others around them may recognize their effects. Signs of PTSD can include re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and disturbances in thoughts or moods. Isolationism, withdrawal and avoidance of public places are common, as well as emotional detachment. ‘Survivor guilt’ and hyperarousal are also indicators.
Treatment is available
Davison further reinforces that the disorder is treatable at any stage of severity or onset.
People with symptoms ought to seek treatment early before symptoms worsen or they resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as abusing alcohol or drugs. The DoD and the VA have gone to great lengths to increase access to evidence-based treatment for PTSD, which range from various psychotherapy approaches to pharmacotherapy. Counseling is available from an individual’s primary care doctor, and they also can talk to a behavioral health provider.
Where to get help for PTSD (VA.gov) Resource list of counselors and therapists in the military, VA and community who provide treatment for PTSD.
Virtual Reality PTSD Treatment
The inaugural episode of the Coaching through Chaos podcast featured Dr. Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego. He discusses the highly successful results of this treatment modality and its use in theater and in VA clinics. Listen to Dr Wiederhold speak about PTSD treatment in our podcast.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies PTSD symptoms into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts.
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.
2. Avoidance symptoms:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.