Monday, November 29, 2010

Rape, PTSD & Breastfeeding

A traumatic event can affect a person's entire life, but what happens when another life is brought into the equation?

According to Dr. Wendy Walsh, writing on the site Mom Logic, victims of rape or other forms of sexual assault can find themselves triggered by something otherwise very natural: breastfeeding.

But as Walsh writes, women can also use breastfeeding as a way to empower themselves and take back their bodies from the memory of trauma.

Read more here:

Breastfeeding and Rape Trauma

Managing Your Post-Holiday Stress

Psychology Today has a great new article about managing your holiday-induced stress: PTSD: Post-Thanksgiving Stress Disorder?

Here's a good quote from the beginning of the article:

"But time alone will not put the past behind you. Without realizing it, you may be holding onto your pain -- and often re-create it in the present -- in a misguided attempt to protect yourself from further trauma."

This is all less about PTSD than the general trauma caused by our every-day lives, but it's still worth a read.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tips on Coping with Holiday Stress

The start of the big holiday season is upon us -- a cause for stress for people with PTSD (not to mention just about everyone else). How do you handle it? Fearless Nation founder Colleen Crary has come up with some great tips for dealing with the holidays. Read, enjoy, and take care of yourself.

Monday, November 22, 2010

University of Connecticut Tries New Approach to Educating Vets with PTSD

This is one of the most interesting and in-depth articles about the troubles vets with PTSD have re-integrating into society that we've seen in a while. Take this passage about one vet who tried to start taking classes:

Looking to continue the physical discipline of the Army, Matt enrolled in a six-month program to become a personal trainer. However, his conduct in the classroom caused his classmates to recoil and ultimately keep their distance. He repeatedly buttonholed them to listen to his ravings and tales from Iraq. He screamed at the television when an Arabic speaker came on and jumped when someone dropped a pan in the training school’s pantry.

He was a stocky, sinewy soldier, with a martial arts Ultimate- Fighting-Championship build, who always donned the same GI-Joe cartoon T-shirt and stocking hat. He had a brooding and sullen stare and remarked, incessantly and uncontrollably, on the stressors of his war experience as his one and only life experience. His classmates gave him the nickname “McMurphy” after Jack Nicholson’s iconoclastic, charismatic mental patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

“Those guys on the side of the road with the cardboard signs — I can see how they get there,” Matt says. “I’m afraid of losing everything I came home to.” The 35-year-old soldier bitterly calls himself a poster child for PTSD.
To help better understand how to offer education to people with PTSD, the University of Connecticut is studying a new technique called Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET). The two-year study will be funded by a $750,000 grant from from the U.S. Justice Department, and the school is seeking 90 male vets to participate.

The study will put half of the participants through "traditional" therapy ("prolonged exposure" therapy, which we haven't actually heard as having many good results), while the rest will be taught techniques to increase skills for controlling anger and other emotions.

Click the link above to read more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

PTSD linked to hardened arteries, heart disease, death

Stress kills, and post-traumatic stress disorder is no exception.

According to research presented earlier this week at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, men and women with PTSD have more calcium buildup in their arteries than people without PTSD. According to a report from CNN's, "Calcium buildup is a hallmark of atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart attacks."

The veterans who did have this calcium buildup were "48 percent more likely to die of any cause during the study and 41 percent more likely to die from heart disease compared to those without PTSD," the study found.

The study was conducted on 637 veterans, and was part of a broader 10-year study that examined 286,000 mostly male vets from conflicts dating as far back as the Korean War. It did not look at non-veterans who might also have been suffering from PTSD.

What causes this calcium buildup? That's still unclear, but the scientists behind the new study said stress could be one factor. Another factor could be not getting enough exercise or other "unhealthy behaviors."

As a conference presentation, this study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lethal Warriors: New Book Examines How PTSD Turned Veterans Violent

The Atlantic magazine has an excellent review/essay about the new book Lethal Warriors, about how PTSD can make soldiers self-destruct and turn violent.

You can find out more about the book itself here:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Biofeedback & PTSD: Teleseminar this Thursday

The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) will present a teleseminar on PTSD on November 18, 2010 at 1:00 Eastern time. The 90-minute presentation on “The Central Autonomic Network and Combat PTSD: Assessment and Intervention” will be given by Dr. Carmen Russoniello, a former Marine machine gunner and decorated Vietnam combat veteran.

You can read about the seminar (and watch a video about the biofeedback program it's kind of promoting) here and register for the $119 seminar here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tetris blocks PTSD? Uh, no.

Every morning, I get an email containing all of the previous day's headlines about PTSD. Today's email lists dozens of links to news stories about a study that claims playing the video game Tetris shortly after experiencing a trauma can help prevent PTSD.

Sorry, but this study is junk science.

Here's how the authors of this study came up with their "conclusions." They took a bunch of healthy volunteers and showed them 21 minutes of films containing some "traumatic" injury. Car crashes, surgery, stuff like that. Then, 30 minutes after the film was over, they had some of the test subjects play Testris. (Others played a different video game, while some just stood quietly like good little lab rats.)

The researchers found that in the weeks that followed, the people who played Tetris reflected on those movies less.

Well I'm sorry, but 21 minutes of video is not going to give someone PTSD (not unless you showed them video of their daughter in a car crash, or something truly traumatic like that). So there's no way that this study can be equated with people who actually experience a real traumatic event.

Yes, research has shown that treating for potential PTSD immediately after an event can lessen its impact and possibly even prevent it. But this study doesn't support any of that, and the only reason the media is heavily reporting it is because it's got just that right combination of oddity and "easy cure" mentality that makes "news" way too easy to produce.

Now, I've played more than my fair share of Tetris over the years -- in fact, I played so much of it that I have had long, vivid dreams about playing Tetris. Following these researchers' logic, maybe playing Tetris gives people PTSD? Nah, I don't think so.

Monday, November 8, 2010

People with Intellectual Disabilities Can Face Greater Risk of PTSD

People with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation, autism, etc) can face greater risks of getting PTSD from traumatic events, both because they are more vulnerable to it and because they are more vulnerable to being physically or sexually abused, according to a study published in Clinical Psychology Review.

It is also often hard for caregivers to recognize what someone with an intellectual disability finds to be traumatic, and PTSD symptoms may display differently in these people, so help isn't always forthcoming or easy to give.

Unfortunately, study of people with intellectual disabilities remains low, and their PTSD often goes untreated.

You can read more about this study -- which is actually a review of the small amount of literature on the subject -- here: PTSD in People with Intellectual Disabilities

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smartphone helps patients track their moods

Are you more anxious today than you were yesterday? More or less sad? Tired? Worried? A new smartphone app can help you track these feelings from day to day, charting the results for either yourself or you and your therapist.

The T2 Mood Tracker, available for Android smartphones, tracks the user's mood and general well-being. You can track how you're feeling each day:

...then use the app to see how your mood and emotions are changing over time:

In addition to adding a number value to their emotions, the user can also add notes about how they are feeling on a certain day.

The categories themselves change a bit depending on if the patient is monitoring stress, depression, brain injury, PTSD, or general health.

The free program was developed for and released by the Department of Defense to help service members and vets, who, statistically, are using their phones more than their laptops.

Perry Bosmajian, the psychologist who helped to develop the Mood Tracker, told the News Tribune: "The very first question a doctor or a therapist asks is 'How have you been doing since I saw you last?' Everything that follows is based on that answer. With this, it's all documented, how you're feeling."

Click the links above to find out more. And if you've used the T2 Mood Tracker, comment below and let everyone know what you think!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PTSD Tied to Higher Rates of Sleep Apnea

As if it weren't bad enough that people with PTSD have trouble sleeping, a new study of 135 vets with PTSD found that 54% had obstructive sleep apnea -- well above the 20% experienced in the general population.

The study was reported last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Now, this hardly proves causality, but it does suggest that if a person with PTSD is having trouble sleeping then all avenues should be explored. A physical element could be partially to blame and only treating sleeplessness with medications won't solve the problem if you also have sleep apnea.

(And speaking as someone with sleep apnea, seriously, it's bad. Get tested and get treatment.)

Read more about this study here: Medical News: CHEST: Apnea Elevated in Vets With PTSD

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2nd Annual 24-hour PTSD Awareness Event This Weekend

The second annual worldwide "Be Fearless!" event to raise awareness, educate the public and banish stigma about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be held online on November 6, 2010.

The 24-hour event, hosted by Fearless Nation PTSD Support, Inc., a nonprofit organization hailing from the USA, will focus on fact-based PTSD information and two simultaneous live stage events with internationally popular musicians and DJs. People from around the globe can attend the event via Second Life, the virtual online community. The entire "Be Fearless!" event will be broadcast live online through the Fearless Nation website.

The "Be Fearless" event begins at 00:00 Pacific Coast Time (-7 GMT/UTC) on November 6 and will run for 24 hours.

Visit the links above for more information!