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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Combat PTSD: General Sequence of Treatment

If you or a loved one are coping with posttraumatic stress disorder, you're sure to be curious about how it's treated. Here's a quick and general outline of the general treatment strategy for PTSD used by the author of The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From Courier Publications:

Glenn Schiraldi is a public-health educator on the stress management faculty at the University of Maryland and formerly on the stress management faculty of the Pentagon. He is author of “The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook.” ...

Schiraldi said there a number of ways of treating PTSD, most of them centered on talking therapies.

“You take this memory that's sitting there like an angry child in a playpen and you try to calm it so you can put it away,” he said. “You try to neutralize the memory, which is intruding, put the pieces together and then store it in long-term memory.”

He said therapy for PTSD patients usually follows a sequence, such as:

  • Educating the person - normalizing the symptoms and understanding the symptoms.
  • Stabilization phase - making sure they're not harming themselves.
  • Managing the symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavioral treatments - These include correcting unreasonable negative memories such as “I'm responsible for losing my squad members when we were attacked.” Various skills are used for expressing the memories and bringing the traumatic memory to awareness. Schiraldi said art therapy can be very effective. “If a soldier comes in with unresolved trauma from his earlier life, such as child abuse, they're more vulnerable to getting PTSD from combat duty,” Schiraldi said.
  • Group therapy can be very helpful, especially for soldiers who feel that nobody but other soldiers can understand what they've been through,” Schiraldi said.
  • Serotonin enhancers that are used to treat depression such as Zoloft have been found to be effective medications to combat PTSD.
“Mental-health professionals have many more tools than they used to have and so the prognosis is much brighter,” Schiraldi said. “Individuals would be wise to seek a trauma specialist, not just a generic counselor. Sometimes just talking about it is not just enough.”

He said the Sidran Institute in Maryland keeps a registry of trauma specialists. “There is some evidence that you don't want to wait, that the sooner you get treated, the better your prognosis,” Schiraldi said. “Some people suffer for decades, not realizing that if they got treatment, their suffering would lessen quickly.” “The more you keep these memories secret, the more they will eat away at you,” he said.

Schiraldi said many members of the World War II generation masked their painful war memories by drinking, and not talking about them for decades. He said a U.S. naval veteran who was in a Kamikaze attack in the Pacific on a warship had all his memories flood back over him almost 60 years later when he saw the World Trade Center attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

So, the key here seems to be to seek treatment quickly rather than suppress. The faster you face and deal with your PTSD, the sooner you'll be able to check it and move on to the better things in life.

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