Monday, January 26, 2009

Study: Smoking and Alcohol Make PTSD Worse

Clinics should treat both PTSD and addiction at the same time, according to several new studies. And while drinking and smoking might feel good at first, other studies show that they might actually be making PTSD symptoms worse, especially if people don't realize that they have PTSD and are self-medicating. Nicotine in particular stimulates the brain.

The Associated Press has more: "How to Help When Smoking, Alcohol Complicate PTSD"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Experimental PTSD Treatment: Stellate Ganglion Block

Veteran Shane Wheeler will soon become the second vet to try an experimental treatment called stellate ganglion block.

Theoretically, the procedure -- normally used to treat disorders such as hot flashes, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Sympathetic Maintained Pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and Herpes Zoster (shingles) -- would calm down the part of the brain that is over-excited because of PTSD.

Of course, this is an unproven, untested treatment, and not everyone believes it would work. Dr. Kurtis Noblett told WLS-TV in Chicago,
"I'm also going to be skeptical about treatments that claim to be a quick fix. PTSD is very complex with a whole host of symptoms and problems and associated difficulties that in my mind needs a broader approach to treatment."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Name for PTSD?

First it was called "shell shock." Then "battle fatigue." Now it's PTSD -- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But is this still the wrong name?

Speaking at a meeting of the American Psychoanalytical Association, Dr. Jonathan Shay says we should lose the word "disorder" and just call it "Post-Traumatic Stress" -- or maybe just call it a "Psychological injury."

Shay says that the word "disorder" mis-characterizes the damage of PTSD, and creates a stigma that makes people who have it less likely to seek treatment.

Is this just semantics? Maybe. But words do have power, as Shay discusses here:

Monday, January 19, 2009

60 Years Later: WWII Vet Talks About PTSD

From the Fort Mill Times:

Until now [Don] Frederick has related his World War II experiences to only a close circle of fellow veterans. He's never discussed the experiences in detail with his wife, his three children, or even his brother, another World War II vet. That has changed.

Frederick is now sharing his accounts with people willing to listen to what he has to say including [Dr. Susan Czapiewski, a psychiatrist at the Veterans hospital in Minneapolis and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.]. The talking is therapy, Czapiewski said. Talk therapy hinges on the talker making a connection with a listener, she said.

"There's a muscle in our middle ear that focuses, that allows us focus on that human voice and sort of drown out what else is going on in the environment, and so there's this strong very primitive social connection that happens that is very soothing and very calming and very healing," she said.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eastwood's 'Gran Torino': A Portrait of PTSD

While it doesn't look like Clint Eastwood's new movie, "Gran Torino", actually spells out that his character has PTSD, veterans who saw the film at a recent screening said it was all too obvious.

As , "Clint shows survivor guilt, paranoia, total irascibility, hate of all enemies and even a death wish which are all symptoms of PTSD."

(Be careful reading the full article if you don't want the ending of the movie spoiled for you!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Robber with PTSD Ruled Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

In a potential landmark case for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a Santa Clara County jury Tuesday found a former Army captain diagnosed with PTSD not guilty by reason of insanity for robbing a Mountain View pharmacy of drugs at gunpoint.

The jury's verdict means that West Point graduate Sargent Binkley of Los Altos will be treated for the disorder in a state hospital or as an outpatient rather than face 12 to 23 years behind bars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Study: Mental Health History Increases PTSD Risk

"Low self esteem, negative life events and lack of a support network greatly increase the likelihood of PTSD," according to a new study by the Geisinger Center for Health Research.

The study followed "2,000 adult victims of the World Trade Center disaster" for two years after the event.

Some possible therapeutic methods for treating PTSD could come out of this study: "Consistent with earlier findings, the study suggests that brief psychological interventions immediately following the event can prevent long term mental health issues. Also effective is informal support from families, friends and spiritual communities. Interestingly, extensive psychological therapy appears to delay recovery."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two veterans share their stories

"Army veteran speaks about struggle with PTSD, long road to recovery"
Afghanistan vet Rob Kislow got so low, he tried to commit suicide, only to have his gun jam at the last minute. He talked about his experiences with PTSD publicly for the first time last month.
"My battle with post traumatic stress"
Chanice Ward of the UK's Royal Medical Corps also tried to kill herself, twice, but "her bosses would not accept she was suffering from an illness and her complaints fell on deaf ears."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

PTSD plus substance abuse: A lethal combination

From Reuters:

Many troops coming home from the wars binge-drink alcohol, [Dr. Thomas] Kosten said. About 3 percent are hooked on opiate painkillers. And overall, the returning troops smoke cigarettes at levels more than double that of the general population, he said.

Read more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Research: Tetris Possible Treatment for PTSD Flashbacks

Playing computer games that combine visual and spacial analysis -- like Tetris -- can help PTSD sufferers experience fewer flashbacks, according to research from the University of Oxford.

Calling the game-play a “cognitive vaccine,” the researchers write that the game competes with resources the brain would otherwise assign to trauma flashbacks:

“Visuospatial cognitive tasks selectively compete for resources required to generate mental images. Thus, a visuospatial computer game (e.g. “Tetris”) will interfere with flashbacks. Visuospatial tasks post-trauma, performed within the time window for memory consolidation, will reduce subsequent flashbacks. We predicted that playing “Tetris” half an hour after viewing trauma would reduce flashback frequency over 1-week.”

Read the paper here:
Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science

PTSD Policemen

Pentagon Rules: No Purple Heart for PTSD

PTSD is not a "qualifying Purple Heart wound," according to the Pentagon. Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, who told that "advancements in medical science may support future re-evaluation."