Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Study: Trauma affects brain function in kids

Psychological trauma leaves a trail of damage in a child's brain, say scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Their new study gives the first direct evidence that children with symptoms of post-traumatic stress suffer poor function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that stores and retrieves memories. The research helps explain why traumatized children behave as they do and could improve treatments for these kids.

Read more.

PTSD creates chemical changes in the brain

Two new studies are examining the chemical changes that occur in the brains of people with PTSD.

The first study, which examined 90 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, found that those with higher levels of PTSD also had higher levels of neurosteroids in their brains.

The second study "found that veterans diagnosed with PTSD along with another syndrome, such as depression, alcohol abuse, substance abuse or suicidal ideation, had different brain images on a CT scan than did those who had been diagnosed only with PTSD."

The findings could have implications for treating PTSD by addressing it as a neurological issue rather than simply as a psychological one.

The Air Force Times has more.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holidays Extra Stressful for Soliders With PTSD

Let's be frank, the holidays can really suck for people with PTSD. This article has a few tips, which are less for people with PTSD themselves than the people in their families. Give it a look.

Effects of trauma-focused psychotherapy upon war refugees

A new study to be published in the Journal of Trauma Stress looks at war refugees and possible ways to treat them. Here's the abstract, ahead of the paper's publication:

The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of a trauma-focused psychotherapy upon war refugees from Bosnia. Seventy refugees who met the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and somatoform disorders were included. The first 35 refugees were offered psychotherapy and the following 35 refugees received usual care. Outcome variables were changes in self-reported PTSD symptoms, psychological symptoms, and health status. At 12-month follow-up, participants in the intervention group reported significantly lower scores on the PTSD scale and the measure of psychological symptoms than the comparison group participants. Our results suggest that psychotherapy reduces symptoms of PTSD and somatoform disorders among war refugees even in the presence of insecure residence status.

"Waves of PTSD in Sri Lanka" since 1948 independence

Sri Lanka isn't exactly a model of political stability or even geographic safety. Natural and man-made disasters have wreaked havoc on the mental health of the Sri Lankan population, according to a report in the Sri Lanka Guardian.

"After the independence in 1948, Sri Lanka experienced a series of man made and natural disasters that affected the mental health of the population. These disasters had caused waves of PTSD in Sri Lanka. Most of the posttraumatic reactions were not identified or not diagnosed and sufferers lived with the symptoms for a long time sometimes in their entire life span."

This is the first major study of PTSD in Sri Lanka, following more than 30 years of political strife. The findings are shocking:

"Based on our rough estimations 8% - 12 % of combatants are severely affected by combat stress and many of them are not under any type of treatment. According to the survey (done by Dr Neil Fernando / Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge) of psychosocial and mental health problems among the 824 combatants who were referred to the Psychiatric Unit Military Hospital Colombo from August 2002 to March 2005 found a prevalence of conditions like PTSD (6.8%) depression (15.6%) alcohol abuse (3.5%), Somatoform Disorders (7.89%) and psychiatric illnesses such as Schizophrenia Acute Transient Psychotic Disorders etc (9.4%)."

Read more here.

Study: Israeli Journalists Suffer from High PTSD Level

"A new study by Ben Gurion University shows that 52% of Israeli journalists who have covered terrorist attacks suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, to the extent that they need therapy. The figure for journalists is 5.5 times higher than it is for the general population, where post-traumatic stress affects 9.4% of the population."

I can't say as this surprises me, but the numbers are still shocking. I've met combat photographers who were permanently traumatized by their experiences. And many war correspondents find themselves in close proximity to combat or directly in danger.

Scary stuff.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dogs help soldiers make gains against PTSD

The Columbia County News-Times has a great story about how dogs are being used by one therapist to "break the ice" and "build bonds of trust."

Postive psychology vs. PTSD

The Huffington Post has a great new article about (against) the military's introduction of something called Postive Psychology to treat PTSD.

"Positive Psychology," according to author Belleruth Naparstek, "focuses on things like authenticity, productivity, creativity, altruism, gratitude and connection with community, instead of targeting symptoms and pathology." Which all seems well and good, until Naparstek points out that these techniques are unlikely to help someone suffering from trauma.

Give the rest a read here. This could be important information for anyone seeking to define the structure of their own therapy.

Accupuncture as possible PTSD treatment

A recent pilot study found that "acupuncture provided treatment effects similar to group cognitive-behavioral therapy."

This seems like pretty early research, and obviously, results may vary. But it seemed worth reporting.