PTSD and Battle Concussions
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder in which people who experience a traumatic event, such as combat or abuse, feel scared, anxious or confused after the event. While these feelings are common in such circumstances, not everyone develops PTSD. Some circumstances that could cause PTSD include:
- events that elicit strong emotional reactions
- situations in which a person feels powerless
- the death of a loved one
- traumatic events.
Either immediately after the traumatic event or after some time, the following PTSD symptoms may appear:
- panic attacks
- reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares
- sleep problems.
Crime, car accidents and traumatic events during war are common causes of PTSD.
War and PTSD
Previous research has shown the link between concussions and PTSD for other traumatic events, However, a new military study has made the connection between battle concussions and PTSD.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, questioned 2,525 infantry soldiers a few months after a year-long tour in Iraq. Researchers found that the incidence of PTSD was higher among those with head injuries than those with other types of injuries. They also found a correlation between the severity of the concussion and the development of PTSD. Those who had lost consciousness after their concussions had more PTSD symptoms than those who did not.
Further research on how or why battle concussions increase the risk for PTSD has yet to be completed. However, scientists involved in this study do know that context is important. A concussion that occurs at the same time as violent trauma is a main contributing factor to the subsequent development of PTSD.
Although battle concussions can increase the risk for PTSD, all PTSD patients can benefit from the same types of prevention and treatment options.
Research regarding PTSD prevention suggests that certain courses of action can help soldiers develop resiliency and avoid the symptoms of PTSD. These include:
- being positive and feeling like a survivor
- connecting to social and family support networks
- coping with stress without avoiding the issue
- having some spiritual belief
- seeking help and helping others
- talking about the trauma.
Veterans and PTSD Treatments
Treatment for war veterans with PTSD includes cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy is a type of counseling that aims to help sufferers understand the trauma they have been through and deal with the thoughts and triggers that cause stress and PTSD symptoms.
Exposure therapy, a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy, aims to minimize the fear of the traumatic memories by talking to a therapist. This helps PTSD sufferers change how they react to those experiences. Group therapy and family therapy have also been used with some success.
More recently, therapists have tried eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). In this procedure, the therapist distracts people with eye and hand movements while they talk about their traumatic memories. There is currently no evidence, however, that the hand and eye movements are effective PTSD treatments.
Finally, a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has helped some soldiers with PTSD symptoms. Examples include ProzacÂ¨ and ZoloftÂ¨.