Will My Loved One Come Back from Iraq with PTSD?
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a highly dangerous, terrifying and life-threatening event. Therefore, PTSD is often associated with the military. In fact the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially added PTSD to its Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the early 1980’s and has identified the following statistics:
- While less than 10 percent of the general population develops PTSD, one in six soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from it
- Enlisted soldiers are twice as likely than military officers to report PTSD
- American women serving in Iraq tend to suffer from more severe and debilitating forms of PTSD than do men
PTSD can affect your Iraq veteran, but treatment is available to help.
APA Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The criteria that the American Psychiatric Association use to diagnose PTSD include the following conditions:
- A person must have been exposed to a catastrophic event involving an actual or perceived threat of life or injury. This event must be characterized by intense fear
- The duration of the PTSD symptoms last at least a month
- The person experiences significant occupational, social or other distresses as a result of the PTSD
- The person starts avoiding people or places reminiscent of the event. He also experiences a numbing effect that interferes with his personal relationships
- The person tends to be in a state of hyper arousal that results in her being startled very easily and being vigilant to the point of paranoia
- The traumatic event persists as a dominating psychological experience, typically causing a person to experience flashbacks of the event from other stimuli
- If your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, PTSD may be the cause
Treatment for PTSD
The United States Department of Veteran Affairs provides considerable information about treatment options for PTSD, including the following methods:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – the goal of this therapy is to help patients understand and change how they think about the traumatic events that affected them. In addition, this therapy focuses on helping patients cope with feelings of anger, guilt and fear
- Exposure therapy – the goal of this therapy is to weaken the fears from the traumatic memories. The concept is that by repeatedly discussing the event, its power over you lessens. In addition, this therapy often uses different relaxation strategies and breathing exercises
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – this therapy is a relatively new one which is intended to help change how patients’ brains process trauma
- Medication – most often used for PTSD are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are designed to help people feel less sad and worried
- Group therapy – sharing your thoughts and emotions of trauma with empathetic peers can help normalize a patient’s experiences
- Family therapy – this therapy helps the family communicate, maintain good relationships and cope with tough emotions
There is hope available for PTSD if you are willing to seek it out.
How to Get Help for a Soldier’s PTSD
If you or a soldier you know has PTSD, call our toll-free helpline today. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about PTSD treatment. We are here to help.