PTSD Among Military Personnel
We’ve discussed how PTSD affects firefighters and public safety officers, and how CISM (or Critical Incident Stress Management) can help them through the difficult pains caused by PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Citizens generally view public safety officers as some rare immortals not easily phased, and they’re not typically considered so vulnerable to PTSD.
However, when it comes to military personnel – and anyone involved first-hand in war – it’s more accepted and understood, the pertinent, gut-wrenching trend of PTSD that most commonly circulates among soldiers, army men and women and war vets – and our country’s greatest heroes. And rightfully so, as military personnel experience the most horrifying nightmares come to life.
The Mayo Clinic defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as, “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event.” Anxiety, which is often associated with PTSD, can be caused by any kind of trauma, such as an accident, personal injury, being the victim of a crime — or experiencing war. PTSD can have such an impact on war personnel — and, in turn, those around them — that it can become emotionally, mentally and physically crippling.
Some troubling statistics:
– Between 2004 and 2010, 20%, or more than 300,000 of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 6 years have PTSD
– Lifetime occurrence of PTSD in combat veterans — 10–30%
– In 2007, the number of reported diagnosed cases in the military increased by 50%
– Studies show 1-in-5 military personnel returning from Iraq, Afghanistan has PTSD
Problems with prescription medications
Similar to the last statistic above, and according to the New York Times, “By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those.”
What’s also tragic is that the number of accidental overdoses is increasing, as psychotropic drugs are being used to treat these troops, and that, according to the AHRP, (Alliance for Human Research Protection) “PTSD/pain patients are often prescribed a combination of psychotropics that may include — one antidepressant, one antipsychotic, one antianxiety, one sleep, and one pain medicine. Sometimes, the enormous medication burden is worsened even further — either by the simultaneous prescription of more than one drug from a given class or the additional self medication effected by the sharing of pills among patients.”
…and illicit drug use within the military
CNN recently reported on heavy opiate and anti-anxiety use in the military, and the up-rise in resulting fatal overdoses. “Eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports. The overdoses were revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates.” It’s safe to say these soldiers often turn to such drugs to help stave off the emotional, mental and physical repercussions and traumas of war.
EMDR and TIR therapy
American Addiction Centers believes in and applies holistic approaches that treats the entire person and administered by treatment professionals — treating not just addiction or mental health issues separately, but the entire person and issues, simultaneously; military personnel who battle PTSD benefit from two of these holistic — EMDR and TIR therapy.
EMDR Therapy: EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a clinically-proven and safe psychotherapy that uses “dual stimulation” exercises that delve into past traumas while at the same time engaging other parts of the brain through bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. The mind responds by becoming easier to reprogram and difficult memories of the past are seen in newer, healthier ways. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have issued clinical practice guidelines that strongly recommended EDMR for the treatment of PTSD in military persons.
Brendan Bickley, PsyD said, ”EMDR has been found to help people suffering from PTSD and others who have experienced trauma by helping people process the experience in a safe environment using the unique EMDR technique. I’ve seen it work wonders in people who have had traumatic military experiences… it really helps.”
TIR Therapy: During TIR, or Traumatic Incident Reduction therapy, clients repeatedly “view” traumatic event as if they’re watching a video, with the goal being to replay the incident enough times so he or she no longer has negative emotions associated with the incident. Much of TIR is repeated verbal exercises that help the client to focus on and process the past traumatic experience, as it’s only when a memory is fully processed that it becomes finalized in our minds, and we can move past it. Healing-arts.org published a great excerpt from a piece in the Institute for Research in Metapsychology Newsletter that describes in detail Vietnam combat vets’ experience with TIR. From the article: “What a wonderful gift: to walk into a VA hospital — to be able to take one of the rejects that they haven’t been able to help in twelve, fourteen, eighteen months and, in a period of two or three weeks, give them a tool they can use the rest of their lives, and see a marked improvement. I don’t know what this stuff is, but gosh, it works! It is wonderful.”