Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common problem in for veterans returning from war all over the world. It can often be misdiagnosed as a traumatic brain injury or overlooked altogether because of the similarities in their symptoms. This article defines what post-traumatic stress disorder is as according to the Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, its correlation with insomnia and nightmares, traumatic brain injuries and heart rate conditions, and it summarizes various treatment options including virtual reality, the RECOVER process, cognitive processing therapy, clinical programs, the use of the drug propranolol, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Lastly, it reviews problems with those treatments, involving flaws in research studies, ethical issues, and gender issues.
Wars have been fought for centuries, and the soldiers fighting those wars are often scarred, either physically, mentally, or both. Soldiers who exhibit a variety of symptoms complain about having difficulty sleeping or have a hard time reconnecting with friends and family after returning from combat. These symptoms have been attributed to Da Costa’s syndrome, effort syndrome, neurocirculatory asthenia, or soldier’s heart in the American Civil War, shell shock in World War I, battle fatigue in World War II, and Gulf War Syndrome during the Gulf War (Engel, Hyams, & Scott, 2006). Today it is known as post-traumatic stress disorder, and it can afflict three out of five soldiers returning from combat all around the world (Kaiman, 2003). Post-traumatic stress disorder is a complicated disorder. Symptoms have often been confused with symptoms of other disorders or overlooked altogether. This can create a problem when diagnosing PTSD and treating it. This paper, however, can correct these issues by reviewing the definition as according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and discussing treatments and techniques in helping veterans who suffer from it and how it differs between men and women. Other issues that go hand-in-hand with PTSD are insomnia, Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBIs, and physical problems often associated with the heart. Treatment options are given as well as issues with some of those treatments. Defining PTSD
To be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a number of factors must be present. PTSD has the possibility of occurring after an event that was potentially harmful or life threatening to the individual or those around them and the individual must have felt intensely helpless, frightened, or horrified by the event (Bisson, 2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder was first defined in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 (Foa & Riggs, 1995). In this edition, PTSD is diagnosed by three criteria: re-experiencing a traumatic event through vivid nightmares or flashbacks at least once, avoiding remembering a traumatic event and detaching oneself from family, friends, and others at least three times, and two instances of increased arousal, whether it be irritability, hypervigilance, or insomnia (Arnedt, Favorite, Horin, & Swanson, 2009; Foa & Riggs, 2006). Little is known about what happens physically to the brain and the body in someone with PTSD. Biologically, when an event occurs that triggers the amygdala into the fight, flight, or freeze response, the hippocampus helps the amygdala determine which path is chosen (Bisson, 2007). According to Bisson (2007, p. 790), “Hippocampal lesions have been associated with a stronger fear response and smaller hippocampal volume has been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.” Another finding is that people who suffer from PTSD have lower cortisol numbers than those without PTSD (Bisson, 2007). Sleep Problems
Many veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder also suffer from insomnia and recurrent nightmares (Jones, Leppma,...
References: Arnedt, J. T., Favorite, T. K., Horin, E., & Swanson, L. M. (2009). A combined group treatment for nightmares and insomnia in combat veterans: A pilot study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22(6), 639-642.
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