PTSD: Who, What, Where and How to Get Help

Courtesy of the VA National Center for PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is usually associated with returning combat veterans, but did you know civilians can experience it too?

Living through a traumatic event can stress almost anyone and leave them with PTSD-like symptoms such as being jumpy or having nightmares, but that does not mean you have PTSD.

Bottom line whether military or civilian, we all need to know more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Enter the VA’s National Center for PTSD which has established PTSD Awareness Day June 27, 2011.

Why wait? Here’s a very comprehensive web page on Everything You Want to Know About PTSD and Should Ask About courtesy of Veterans Today.

PTSD Category Symptoms:

  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

If you think you may have PTSD, here’s an online PTSD  Screening Tool.

Children and adults, military and civilian, anyone can develop PTSD. The key is recognizing the symptoms and getting help early with the PTSD and any other related problems.

  • Depression
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment or school problems
  • Relationships problems
  • Physical symptoms

It’s important that everyone understand PTSD even if it’s not touched your family or friends, but if it has, you can help a family member. Here’s a list of where to get help for PTSD.

PTSD Awareness Day is just over a week away, you have time to study up and help someone, maybe yourself.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Visit www.ptsd.va.gov to learn more about trauma and PTSD. Special postings will be made each week throughout June.
  • Print educational materials from the site to hand out.
  • Post a PTSD Awareness Day flyer (PDF) in a common area, where it can be seen.
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Combining Smell, Sites and Sounds to Overcome PTSD

Smells from exotic spices to rotting, uncollected garbage will be used to help war veterans overcome symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando are studying “exposure therapy.” And, they will use the smells associated with combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Coalition forces alongside Afghan commandos kick down a door during an air assault mission in the Paktika province of Afghanistan, Aug. 14, 2009. Photo credit: Spc. Matthew Freire, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.

The “exposure” therapy uses virtual sites, sounds and real smells of traumatic events to help teach people to face their fears. Dr. Deborah Beidel, a UCF psychology professor, is leading the study that also includes researchers from the University of South Carolina.

Researchers have known for a long time that smell is tied to memories and the hope is that the smells of war will help veterans deal with their anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. The smells coupled with video game simulations will be used to duplicate the war veterans traumatic experience.

The study is recruiting 120 veterans with PTSD who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The study will be conducted at two locations UCF and the Medical University of South Carolina. The first five weeks veterans will use the video simulations including smells. Then the groups will be split. Half will receive 12 weeks of group therapy aimed at solving social and emotional problems. The other half will receive the standard mental health treatment offered by the VA and clinics. The study is being funded by the U.S. Army. Treatment is free.

Veterans of any military branch, as well as National Guard and Reserve members, who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are eligible. For more information on UCF’s portion of the study, go to http://anxietyclinic.cos.ucf.edu or call 407-823-1668.

A link to UCF article about the project is here.

A link to the full Orlando Sentinel article is here.

Learning from a Virtual PTSD Experience

My thanks to SMSgt. Rex Temple for sharing this information. After returning from a year in Afghanistan April 2010, he has spent time helping teammates with PTSD work through the symptoms – informal peer-to-peer help can be powerful. Using a virtual experience is also proving promising.

The Department of Defense has launched a website, “Virtual PTSD Experience”, that will allow users to explore the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress in an anonymous setting on the Second Life virtual world platform. Second Life provides T2 a limitless space on the Internet where service members can learn more about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) causes, symptoms and resources for information and care. Visitors enter the Virtual PTSD Experience space through the Second Life website, which can be accessed for free.

For more information, visit the Virtual PTSD Experience website.

USF to Study Web-based and Rapid PTSD Therapies

USF Associate Professor Kevin Kip is the new Executive Director of the USF College of Nursing Research Center, a center created to promote the growth of research initiatives.

By Bobbie O’Brien

TAMPA (2010-9-27) – Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — PTSD — can be a challenge because there can be a stigma attached to seeking treatment. So, University of South Florida researchers with the College of Nursing plan to study the efficacy of some less than conventional therapies that might reach veterans who have not sought conventional help.

“We’ve identified two types of approaches, one is an in-person therapy called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), but it’s designed to be very brief, between two to five sessions to deal with distressing memories,” said Dr. Kevin Kip, an epidemiologist and principal investigator for the five-study project.

The other PTSD therapy is Web-based, called Acceptance Commitment Therapy, which Kip hopes will appeal to veterans who shy away from conventional, in-person mental health therapy.

“That is the beauty of I think the Web-based protocol that is anonymous based, doesn’t come with a label. You can do it at night you know in your pajamas at 11 o’clock, no one knows about it,” Kip said.

Another study will attempt to ascertain if there’s under-reporting of PTSD and PTSD symptoms.

“We’re not trying to label anyone,” Kip said. “But it’s our belief that as high as the magnitude of PTSD and symptoms of that is reported, we actually think it’s an under estimate.”

Women veterans and their mental health issues are the topic of longitudinal study and a VA researcher is looking at the use of a Web-based, educational program to help veterans with mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The research on two of the studies is being done in collaboration with researchers at SUNY-Albany. Funding for the two-year project is through the Department of Defense.

“We haven’t tested these formally, so we don’t know if they’re effective and to what level they are,” Kip said. “But that’s our goal.”

To listen to the radio report on this topic, please click here.

For more information about Dr. Kip, click here.

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