Thursday, December 15, 2011

Surviving Hanukkah for Survivors of Child Abuse

Hanukkah starts on Tuesday, and for some adults who may have experienced sexual abuse as children, it could be a time for painful and traumatic memories. offers several tips for abuse survivors to get through the holidays, and also offers advice for people who know abuse survivors:

Surviving Hanukkah: Jewish Survivors of Child Abus

On a similar note, Fearless Nation PTSD Support offers a great list of holiday coping tips for people with PTSD.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PTSD Infographic

Earlier this year, the School of Social Work put together this great infographic: "What Is PTSD?"

Check it out:

Brought to you by: Masters in Social Work | MSW@USC

Friday, December 9, 2011

PTSD & The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I keep meaning to read the "Dragon Tattoo" books, especially with the first US movie looming on the horizon. But psychologists who have read it say lead character Lisbeth Salander obviously has PTSD from a traumatic childhood.

Everyday Health has the story about "diagnosing" this fictional character, along psychologists' thoughts on how she should be treated:

Asperger's? PTSD? What's Wrong With the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? 

[Edited 1/18/2002 -- I've now read all three books, and yup, that's one traumatized main character. Wow.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Northern Ireland has highest levels of PTSD worldwide

Decades of violence and strife have led the citizens of Northern Ireland to have the highest levels of PTSD in the world, according to a newly released study carried out by psychologists from University of Ulster and trauma treatment experts from Omagh. (Both the University of Ulster and the city of Omagh are in Northern Ireland.)

The study actually examines the economic cost of PTSD -- it's called "The Economic Impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Northern Ireland" -- and it says that PTSD costs the country close to £175 million (about $275 million ) a year. That includes both direct costs (e.g., medical costs) and indirect costs such as productivity loss.

According to the research, 8.8% of the adults in Northern Ireland have met the criteria for PTSD at some point in their lifetimes. (Worldwide rates, in at least one previous study, have been cited at 7.8%.)

Read more:
University of Ulster press release, BBC, Belfast Telegraph

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PTSD passed on from one generation to the next

Writing for Indian Country Today Media Network, Beverly Cook (Wolf Clan Mohawk) discusses how acts of genocide perpetrated upon Native Americans has passed "toxic stress" down the line from one generation to the next and how the evils of the past continue to hurt the people of today:

Toxic stress experienced by children can alter their brain, their genes and organ development if they do not have the caring support of an adult. So a young girl’s childhood experiences, her health and her diet will not only effect the outcome of her future pregnancies but also can effect her future grandchildren. She is not alone in this as the genes that come from the father have also been imprinted by his childhood and his environment in his mother’s womb. Combined, the mother and father lay the groundwork for their baby to grow and still the actual outcome can change depending on the environment in the womb. Imagine no worries or concerns, having nutritious food, adequate exercise, a loving partner, happiness and peace. The baby would form itself based on that particular environment as opposed to an environment laced with anger, fear, frustration or grief.

Read more here:

The Toxic Effects of Stress on American Indians

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poster Girl documentary on HBO2 tonight

The Oscar-nominated short documentary "Poster Girl" airs on HBO2 tonight. Here's the trailer:

The story of Robynn Murray, an all-American high-school cheerleader turned “poster girl” for women in combat, distinguished by Army Magazine’s cover shot. Now home from Iraq, her tough-as-nails exterior begins to crack, leaving Robynn struggling with the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Shot and directed by first-time filmmaker, Sara Nesson, POSTER GIRL is an emotionally raw documentary that follows Robynn over the course of two years as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and redemption, using art and poetry to redefine her life.

Check your local listings for times, and visit the movie's official site for more information:
Poster Girl

Monday, November 7, 2011


Words have power. Is "post traumatic stress disorder" the right name? Does the word "disorder" lead to misconceptions and stigma? Instead, should it just be called "post traumatic stress" or maybe, as Gen. Peter Chiarelli suggests, "post traumatic stress injury"? Trauma causes an actual physical change to your brain. The term "injury" makes sense.

What do you think?

Read more:
Army General Calls for Changing Name of PTSD | PBS NewsHour

On a similar note, here's an image often used by Fearless Nation PTSD Support:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lisa Ling PTSD documentary airs Sunday night

Lisa Ling's excellent OWN documentary series "Our America" will look at veterans and PTSD this Sunday at 9pm (EST). She talks about it here:

Lisa Ling Talks 'Our America 

...and you can watch the first five minutes of the episode here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Third annual Be Fearless event starts tomorrow

The third annual "Be Fearless" online PTSD awareness event starts tomorrow, November 4. Hosted by Fearless Nation PTSD Support, the event will include informational resources about PTSD as well as live musicians, global DJs, art exhibits, interactive art, and other activities.

The event -- which will be held at Fearless Nation's virtual reality retreat in Second Life -- is already getting some great write-ups (here's one, and here's another), and you can see a preview of the amazing PTSD-themed art exhibits here.

The announcement about Be Fearless 2011 can be read at Hypergrid Business.

Full information on Be Fearless can be found here: Fearless Nation PTSD Support - Be Fearless 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

U.S. veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes

We previously commented on the staggering level of suicide among U.S. veterans -- 18 people a day. That number hasn't changed, but here's a new way of looking at it: that's one person every 80 minutes. Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, writes about it for CNN:

Kayyem: U.S. veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes – Global Public Square

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sleep disorders and PTSD

In a new study, nine in ten vets with PTSD or TBI were "hypersomniacs," meaning they were tired during the day. That's because more than half had sleep apnea and almost half had insomnia. (It's not clear if those numbers overlap.)

Interestingly, the vets with no physical injuries suffered from greater levels of sleep apnea. TBI caused by blast injuries caused higher levels of insomnia.

Read more:

Sleep disorders plague vets with head trauma or PTSD | Reuters

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Study: Marijuana Use Causes Chaos in the Brain

We see a lot of articles that suggest one of the reasons why marijuana should be legalized is because it would supposedly benefit people with PTSD. This new study is a perfect example of why we never link to them:

Study: Marijuana Use Causes Chaos in the Brain

Monday, October 17, 2011

Israeli to automatically recognize POWs as having PTSD

Members of the Israeli Defense Force who have been held as prisoners of war will now automatically be recognized as having PTSD, without an exam to officially certify it. This follows criticism from former POWs who have had trouble getting benefits related to treating their post-traumatic stress.


Israeli POWs to automatically be recognized as PTSD sufferers

Thursday, October 13, 2011

40% of cancer survivors have PTSD symptoms

I was talking with a cancer survivor just the other night and he told me that he is frequently kept awake by terrible anxiety and fear. That's typical of cancer survivors, according to a new study which found that nearly 4 in 10 suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The symptoms, according to an article from Reuters, include "being extra jumpy, having disturbing thoughts about the cancer and its treatment, or feeling emotionally numb toward friends and family."

The study examined 566 patients who had been treated for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for signs of PTSD. Only 12 patients were found to be suffering from what Reuters calls "full-blown PTSD" but at least 37% had symptoms of trauma even years after their initial cancer diagnosis.

Why does this happen? Cancer can be a life-altering occurrence, leaving a patient in never-ending worry and anxiety. It's worse, the study found, for lower-income patients, who may not have the same resources to improve their health.

A good note in this: the study found that many oncologists ask not just about cancer symptoms but a patient's mental health, helping to lessen the potential for PTSD before it can set in and cause more long-term suffering.

Read more:

Many cancer survivors struggle with PTSD symptoms | Reuters

Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Long-Term Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Survivors: Does Time Heal? | The Journal of Clinical Oncology

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Study: VA clinicians not conforming to PTSD best practices

A paper in the current issue of Journal of Traumatic Stress looks at, as the title puts it, "Variation in practices and attitudes of clinicians assessing PTSD-related disability among veterans" -- and the results aren't pleasing.

According to the paper's abstract: "One hundred thirty-eight Veterans Affairs mental health professionals completed a 128-item Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Practice Inventory that asked about their practices and attitudes related to disability assessment of PTSD. Results indicate strikingly wide variation in the attitudes and practices of clinicians conducting disability assessments for PTSD. In a high percentage of cases, these attitudes and practices conflict with best-practice guidelines. Specifically, 59% of clinicians reported rarely or never using testing, and only 17% indicated routinely using standardized clinical interviews. Less than 1% of respondents reported using functional assessment scales."

The paper is behind a pay firewall, but Time discusses it here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spouses and PTSD

As the partner of a woman with complex PTSD, I understand how important it is for couples to work together to heal the effects of trauma. Sometimes, that means a spouse needs to be the person to say "You need to get help," as we see in this article from the Florida Times-Union:

Spouses are often the first to notice effects of PTSD |

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vice Cop's PTSD Diagnosis Leads to New Career as Youth Advocate

Insight Magazine has a great profile of Ralph Barrera, a member of the board at Fearless Nation PTSD Support:

Ralph Barrera was a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department when a bullet changed his life.

Fired in the line of duty in accordance with his training and police department regulations, the bullet took the life of an offender—but it also took a toll on Barrera, who embarked on a decade-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and eventually confronted the reality that it was time for a career change.

Read the rest here: Vice Cop Turned Youth Advocate

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

War can give military working dogs PTSD

A USA Today article about military working dogs and their vital role in the current military conflicts also talks about how the trauma of war can give these canines PTSD:

"...incidents of canine post-traumatic stress disorder are on the rise, said Lt. Col. Richard A. Vargus, chief of the law enforcement branch at CENTCOM.

"Our biggest issue that we have with canines is canine PTSD," he said. "We've seen a significant issue with that because when you're standing 10 feet away from an explosion, the dog has emotions and the dog is affected as well."

If the dog is fearful, it may bite the handler, run and hide, or cower behind the handler if it thinks the team is preparing to go on patrol, Vargus said.

Read more:
Canine programs expand to save more troops

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PTSD recovery thickens your brain (and that's a good thing)

According to a study conducted by Kyoon Lyoo, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Seoul National University in South Korea, patients with PTSD who improved their mental health also experienced a thickening of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a portion of the brain that, according to our friend Wikipedia, "plays an important role in the integration of sensory and mnemonic information and the regulation of intellectual function and action."

The study followed 30 survivors of a subway fire for five years. The patients not only received psychiatric care, they were also periodically examined through neuroimaging to get a picture of what was going on inside their brains.

A control group was also followed over the course of the five years. The study found that "During the first year and a half of the study, the trauma subjects also acquired a thicker dorsolateral prefrontal cortex than controls did," according to a report at Psychiatric News.

The researchers concluded that boosting the thickening of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, possibly through "transcranial magnetic stimulation before and early after trauma," could be a way to help people recover from trauma.

Read more about this study here:

Why Does Brain Thickening Occur During PTSD Recovery?

The study itself can be found here. (The full article is only available to subscribers. The abstract is available to all.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Employers' Misconceptions About PTSD

According to a survey cited by Lisa Stern of the Department of Labor’s project America’s Heroes at Work program, 46 percent of HR managers believe PTSD poses a "hiring challenge" -- namely that people with PTSD or TBI are not efficient or create a potential problem for violence in the workplace. But Stern said these assumptions are myths, and no evidence backs them up.

In His VA blog Vantage Point, Alex Horton summarizes some of the advice Stern had for hiring vets and other people with PTSD:
  • Consider flexible work hours
  • Put instructions in writing instead of just relying on verbal communication
Stern also said that the act of working can by itself help reduce PTSD symptoms.

Read more:

Debunking Employers’ Misconceptions About PTSD and TB 

What other myths about PTSD have you encountered in the workplace? Discuss them in the comments.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

9/11 anniversary could trigger PTSD symptoms

UPI reports: "The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center left 10,000 firefighters, police officers and civilians with post-traumatic stress disorder." PTSD symptoms for these people are expected to increase as we near the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Read more:

9/11-related PTSD haunts thousands

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Study: Risperdal Does Not Help PTSD

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that anti-psychotic drugs like Risperdal do not help alleviate PTSD symptoms, despite their common use with veterans.

According to the study, 20% of veterans being treated by the VA for PTSD took an anti-psychotic in 2009. More than 90% of those veterans took second-generation anti-psychotics, which include Risperdal.

The FDA has not approved the use of anti-psychotics for treatment of PTSD.

You can read more about the study here, and find the actual study here. (The paper is free right now, but may be behind a pay firewall later.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Women with PTSD have lower birthweight babies

Mothers with PTSD give birth to babies that weigh, on average, one-half pound less than mothers who have not experienced trauma.

Read more here:

PTSD linked to lower weight in premature babies

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot weather & PTSD

We're hearing from a number of people that hot weather like we're experiencing this week can be a PTSD trigger for some folks, especially vets who may have served in the recent desert-based wars.

What are your thoughts/feelings on this? Are hot days a trigger for you? What do you do to stay cool, physically and emotionally? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surf Therapy

I live on the coast of Maine, which isn't exactly ideal surf country, but when I want to relax, I like to go down and stare at the water.

But getting back to surfing, Miller-McCune has a great story about how some people with PTSD are benefiting from surfing, what is being called Ocean or Surf Therapy. It's been used the U.S. and UK military, as well as other groups.

Why does it work? It's exercise, it's fun, it's a whole-body-whole-mind experience, and... well, the rest is still being researched.

But don't let that stop you. Read more about it here:

Addressing PTSD With Surf Therapy - Miller-McCune

Monday, July 18, 2011

Art & Book Auction to Support PTSD Awareness

Cartoonists, fine artists and authors from around the country have donated items for an auction to bring awareness to the public about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The auction will benefit Fearless Nation PTSD Support, a 501c3 Non-Profit Public Charity dedicated to raising awareness and education about PTSD and to banishing the stigma associated with it.

"Art is such an important way to explore our thoughts and reflect on our society," said writer, cartoonist and Fearless Nation board member John Platt, who has organized the auction and donated three of his own drawings. "The artists we contacted were extremely excited to support this cause, and we are very proud to have their backing."

Artists and authors whose work appears in the auction include:

The auction began today, July 18 and will run through Sunday, July 24. It can be found at

This will be the first of several art and book actions to benefit Fearless Nation. "Quite a few authors have already promised signed books for our second auction, which we hope to hold in late August," said Platt.

"We are thrilled to have so many great artists step up and offer their work to support our efforts," said Colleen Crary, M.A., founder and Executive Director of Fearless Nation PTSD Support. "Donations like this are what make it possible for us to continue to help trauma victims worldwide and to break down the stigmas that people with PTSD face in their daily lives."

About Fearless Nation PTSD Support:

Fearless Nation PTSD Support is a 501c3 Non Profit Public Charity that provides free community support for all post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers, their family, friends and therapists through raising awareness and education about PTSD based in proven science in order to banish the stigma and misinformation associated with the condition. The Fearless Nation motto is "Be Fearless!" All are welcome. All are included. Visit

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Study links PTSD and compromised immune systems

A new study, which does not appear to be online anywhere that I can find, find a preliminary link between PTSD and compromised immune systems, possibly caused by inflammation. According to a report from The Times and Democrat:

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Arnold School of Public Health, and the Dorn VA Medical Center, shows that PTSD patients have increased levels of inflammation, caused by an increase in certain types of cells that regulate the immune functions.

The results are significant because they could lead to novel methods for diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, said Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, associate dean and Carolina Distinguished Professor at the USC medical school, who is the lead researcher in this study.

The findings also are the basis for a new $1.72 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to Nagarkatti and his team of researchers, who will intensify their research on the pathological basis of immune dysfunction in war veterans with PTSD.
Read more here:

Report: Study finds link between PTSD, compromised immune systems in veterans

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cyber-stalking can cause PTSD

A new study entitled "Cyberstalking in the United Kingdom" finds that the trauma of being victimized online can lead to PTSD:

"The results indicate that the prevalence of PTSD following cyber-stalking exceeds the occurrence in a general population following trauma and is comparable to other extreme specific traumatic events such as sexual assault and combat ... the victims' reactions are of a negative nature and include fear, stress, anxiety, as well as an erosion of trust in the self and other people."

The Register has a brief article about the report here: 'Being cyber-stalked is as bad as being raped, or in a war'

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trauma-senstive yoga

As we've discussed on the blog several times, yoga can be a very effective source of relief for people with PTSD. But finding the right yoga teacher, who understands the needs of people with trauma, is important.

On the blog Linda's Yoga Journey, the author discusses some things yoga teachers should keep in mind for their students who are trauma survivors. Here's her introduction:

A “trauma sensitive” yoga class is taught very differently from the yoga class with which we are familiar -- soft music, altars, incense, physical adjustments. A typical yoga class may not be comfortable place for a trauma survivor and in fact may feel very dangerous. Merely saying the word "relax" can be a PTSD trigger if the person was told to relax and then was abused.

For someone who has been abused, a physical assist can be a severe trigger for PTSD. Many teachers say, "but I always ask first." Think about that statement. For someone who has a history of abuse and was not allowed to say no (so has issues with power and control), assists are problematic.

Read more here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Study: Living in captivity gives chimpanzees PTSD

Two new studies reveal that chimpanzees, one of our closest non-human relatives, can get post-traumatic stress disorder from living in captivity, or from the traumatic events that led to their being in captivity in the first place. Many chimpanzees in zoos are rescues of the (often illegal) animal trade, in which young chimps are often torn from their mothers and placed in restrictive cages.

Earth Times has the story:

Can Chimps Have PTSD?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Study: Aerobic exercise potentially good treatment for PTSD

Preliminary results of a small study suggest that adding aerobic exercise to other PTSD treatment can have a good effect.

The study, presented at the 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine, examined 14 women recruited from a rape crisis center in Florida. According to a press release about the study, "All participants attended bi-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, and seven of the participants also attended a minimum of two group circuit training classes per week."

Results were good enough that the authors are now calling for more study. 

Read more: Exercise Should Be Considered For PTSD Therapy

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fearless Journalism: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD Mac McClelland covers the human rights beat for Mother Jones magazine, and the experiences of her profession led to her developing PTSD. Here's her account, for Good magazine, about how it affected her. It's fearless journalism, and not easy to read, but well worth your time:

How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fishing: A Welcome Escape from PTSD

Fishing can offer a quiet, relaxed, comfortable way to get out in nature (and maybe back into some of your old routines) without encountering crowds of people, Michigan's Midland Daily News reports (scroll down the sidebar).


Our sister site Fearless Nation PTSD Support calls PTSD a normal reaction to abnormal events. The military agrees and is pushing to have PTSD reclassified as simply PTS -- post-traumatic stress, no "disorder." In fact, more often than not, they are already dropping the D.

Time's Battleland blog looks into the issue:

Military mental-health workers constantly try to reduce the stigma associated with mental-health ills, and one way to do that is to not term the problem a disorder.

Some veterans agree, but others -- fearful the name change is simply a way of minimizing what they're going through -- don't. "It's a double-edged sword," a long-time Army psychiatrist says privately. "We're trying to reduce the stigma associated with the condition, but it's in the DSM-4 [the American Psychiatric Associati0n's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the accepted roster of various mental conditions] as PTSD. And some veterans fear that deleting disorder will jeopardize the VA benefits they get for it."

So what do you think? Does the word Disorder matter? Does it have meaning? Does it add stigma? Is it truthful or in the way? We'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another hidden cost of war: 18 U.S. vets commit suicide every day

Mother Jones pointed out yesterday that American casualties during war are way down compared to previous wars.

But that ignores the fact that our soldiers are surviving the battlefield, then coming home and committing suicide. More than 18 of them every day, on average. Read more:

Veteran suicides exceed combat deaths: 18 per day

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PTSD Virtual Retreat Members Speak: Fearless Nation in Second Life

This amazing video shows how the Fearless Nation PTSD Support virtual retreat has helped several people with PTSD. Check it out:

We have lots of new stories coming up on PTSD News in the coming week or two. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Psychological Cost of War: Military Combat and Mental Health

As we head into Memorial Day, it's important to remember how much war costs us. A new study puts the psychological cost of the global war on terror in dollars and cents: "Our estimates imply lower-bound health care costs of $1.5 to $2.7 billion for combat-induced PTSD." That's a two-year cost, so the total cost over time is dramatically greater.

You can read the entire paper in PDF form here:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fearless Nation issues call for volunteers and donations

Founder Colleen Crary writes: "Fearless Nation Needs Your Help NOW. Friends, we are being flooded with incoming soldiers and trauma sufferers. I am doing everything myself and working 16 hour days. I have also been financing FN for more than 2 years out of my own dwindling pocket."

Read more and find out how you can help.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Respiration, CO2 and PTSD

A new study entitled "The effects of CO2 inhalation in patients with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)", published in the journal European Psychiatry, examines the link between the "psychometric effects of CO2 on panic anxiety and PTSD symptoms in subjects with PTSD."

I can't access the entire paper, but there is previous research linking getting too much carbon dioxide (and at the same time not getting enough oxygen) with anxiety disorders (especially in children).

What does all of this suggest? Nothing conclusive.

But it does lead us to remember one key word:


Monday, April 25, 2011

PTSD affects childrens' DNA

Childhood trauma can lead to PTSD in adults, while also affecting them on a genetic level.

According to a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, adults with PTSD who had a history of childhood trauma had a significantly shorter region of DNA proteins known as the telomere -- a region of repetitive DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome which protects the chromosome from deterioration. Previous studies have linked short telomere length with accelerated aging and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative conditions.

The study examined a total of 90 people -- 47 with PTSD and 43 without. The subjects with PTSD were found to have an average telomere length shorter than that of the non-PTSD subjects.

Read more here:

Risk of Accelerated Aging Seen in PTSD Patients with Childhood Trauma

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Veterans' agencies launch free PTSD Coach iPhone app

Got PTSD? There's an app for that.

Okay, now that I got that awful joke out of my head, here's the news: The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have teamed up to launch a free iPhone app called PTSD Coach. Intended specifically for people who are in or have served in the military, the app "provides users with education about PTSD, information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help users manage the stresses of daily life with PTSD."

You can find more info on the app here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Can video games trigger PTSD?

The Hawaii-based PTSD organization Stay Strong Nation is arguing that the combat simulation aspects of the newest Call of Duty video game can serve as "volatile triggers for veterans suffering from PTS[D]."

Gresford Lewishall, vice president of the organization, said in a prepared statement, "Veterans either play or have exposure to the games and subsequently feel like they're back in Afghanistan or Iraq in life or death situations. Their heart beat accelerates and they feel a sense of unease come over them."

Read more here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obama's budget seeks $7.2 billion for PTSD/TBI treatment

President Obama's 2012 budget proposes a healthy $7.2 billion to research and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. This is an increase of $765 (14.6%) compared to the current, 2011, budget.

Nextgov has more.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Prison, corrections staff & PTSD

I wouldn't want to work in a prison. Would you? Talk about a stressful job. In fact, working as a corrections officer is so stressful that some people come down with PTSD just from doing their jobs.

In fact, according to a nationwide survey, 39% of corrections workers met the criteria for having PTSD, while another 15-20% showed signs of being at risk of PTSD.

The PTSD risk comes from seeing violence, having violence committed against you, and the constant fear ("prolonged exposure") of what could happen next.

From a report on the study: "Of the 720 anonymous corrections employees from across the country who took part in the survey, 99.9 percent had witnessed violence at work, and almost 56 percent experienced one or more physical assaults."

Read more here: 
Desert Waters looks at PTSD in corrections staff

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Could bartenders help diagnose depression and PTSD?

The old saw is that your local bartender will listen to your problems when nobody else will.

But what if they could do more than listen to your problems? What if they could provide answers?

That's the idea behind a new study published in the Journal of Military and Veterans' Health.

Let's go to the press release:

A pilot study suggests that some bartenders may be in a good position to identify veterans in need of mental health services and help connect them to the appropriate agency.

Researchers at Ohio State University surveyed 71 bartenders employed at Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Ohio.

The results showed that bartenders felt very close to their customers and that these customers shared their problems freely with them, said Keith Anderson, lead author of the study and assistant professor of social work at Ohio State.

"Many of the bartenders said that their customers were very much like family," Anderson said.

"Given the closeness of the relationships, these bartenders are in a really great position to help these veterans – if they are given the right training and the right tools."

Of the bartenders surveyed, 73 percent said their role with their customers was "like family." And about 70 percent of the bartenders said that the veterans they interacted with "always" or "often" shared their problems with them.
Encouragingly, 80 percent of the bartenders said they would be willing to refer veterans to services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

These results show why bartenders may be especially well-suited to help troubled veterans, Anderson said.

"We need to find the veterans where they are. Many of them may not be willing to go to a VA clinic to seek out help on their own. The VFW bartenders may be one of our best chances to reach some of these veterans," he said.

Part of this study looked into whether bartenders might already have the sensitivity to notice problems that others might not see:

About two-thirds of those surveyed rated their ability to recognize depression in their patrons as "moderate," while the remaining third rated their ability as "high."

Only 14 percent rated their ability to recognize symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as "high" while 43 percent rated their ability as low.

Two small quibbles: 1) We hope bartenders can be trained to tell trauma to stop drinking, and 2) younger vets simply aren't joining their local VFW or American Legion these days. But if you could take this further to all bartenders, it might help make them a very good resource for people who would otherwise be drowning their sorrows.

Read the whole release about this pilot study here:

Bartenders may have role in assisting troubled war veterans

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PTSD and Worker's Comp

Research has consistently shown that trauma causes physical changes to the human brain. (See the PTSD News archive for several examples.) But if you are traumatized by your job, can you claim worker's comp?

In Wyoming, the answer is no. That state's Supreme Court ruled in December that the biological changes to the brain are not the same as physical injuries and are therefore not eligible for worker's comp.

The case came up when a volunteer firefighter experienced PTSD after seeing two of his coworkers burned and killed during a fire. The court called these "mental injuries" and said the law did not offer compensation for these types of wounds.

Read more: Risk & Insurance Online - Biological roots of PTSD don't trigger comp for physical injuries

What do you think? Should firefighters, police personnel, rescue workers and others be eligible for worker's comp due to PTSD? How about victims of workplace bullying or sexual harassment? Should PTSD be considered a physical injury? Let us know your thoughts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Must-read: The Neuroscience of Fear and Loathing

What happens to your brain -- physically -- during moments of extreme stress and fear? Dario Dieguez, Jr, Ph.D. gives you the latest science:

The Neuroscience of Fear and Loathing

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Military's prescription drug policy criticized - especially for Seroquel

In the first part of an ongoing investigative series, news site Nextgov reports that the U.S. military's prescription drug policies puts its soldiers and its veterans at risk.

"A June 2010 internal report from the Defense Department's Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio showed that 213,972, or 20 percent of the 1.1 million active-duty troops surveyed, were taking some form of psychotropic drug: antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative hypnotics, or other controlled substances."

Many of these soldiers and veterans are on multiple anti-psychotics, which one doctor said is not necessary.

Most of the criticism comes down on the use of the anti-psychotic Seroquel, which the military allows to be prescribed as a sleep aid -- which is not one of the uses the FDA has approved for the drug.

"Smith said he was "flabbergasted" that military doctors prescribed Seroquel as a sleep aid, as the Food and Drug Administration has not approved such a use and other drugs are more effective. Breggin agreed, calling Seroquel "very dangerous, expensive and not proven to be more beneficial than other drugs."

Jackson noted Seroquel has the addictive potential of opioids, such heroin."

Nextgov also spoke to Stan White, whose son Andrew suffered from PTSD and was prescribed multiple medications, but barely had access to talk therapy:

"White said Andrew was so befuddled by his drug cocktail, which included Klonopin, a benzodiazepine, and hydrocodone, an opiate, that his wife, Shirley, had to dole them out forAndrew. White said Seroquel did not diminish Andrew's nightmares at even such a high dosage.

While talk therapy is widely viewed as one of the most effective treatments for some mental health problems, including PTSD, White said Andrew had only a few such sessions, primarily with a local veterans' peer therapy group. It was not until the week Andrew died that a VA psychiatrist decided to begin intensive sessions with him."

You can (and should) read Nextgov's entire report here:

Military's drug policy threatens troops' health, doctors say

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can a Positive Attitute Prevent PTSD?

Can you train soldiers to be more optimistic in the face of traumatic events, and can that help to prevent them from developing PTSD?

Researchers from Michigan State University asked those questions as they examined the data from a 2004 study of Iraq veterans.

According to a report on their work, the researchers "found that soldiers who are trained to be more optimistic in traumatic situations are less likely to develop mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD."

"There is evidence that if we can train people to be more psychologically resilient — that is, less catastrophic in their thinking and more optimistic and more hopeful — then they function better when they encounter traumatic situations," said John Schaubroeck, lead author of the study.

Their work will be published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, which is not yet online.

According to the report in "Personal Liberty Digest" (an "ultra-conservative" publication), "Schaubroeck added that military leaders play an important role in sending a message of hope and optimism to their troops. He said it is important for officials to provide immediate support for an individual who experiences trauma because by the time they consult a health professional, mental problems may already escalate to severe levels."

What say you to this theory?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

PTSD in Firefighters, First Responders & Other Rescuers

Two recent news stories highlight the oft-forgotten sufferers of PTSD: First responders, firefighters and other rescue workers.

First up, an NPR article about how the constant threat of working as a first responder or other rescue worker can build up until PTSD symptoms develop.

"Little by little, it just started to build, and then one day, the slideshow that was all these events started running in my head and I couldn't control it," Michael Ferrara told NPR. It all came to a head for him when a friend of his was killed while on duty.

According to NPR (itself covering a story from Outside magazine), PTSD often goes undiagnosed in these occupations because the men who fill these jobs do not like to admit when they are in emotional pain.

But better understanding of PTSD allows both managers and rescue workers to not only deal with their symptoms better, but to recognize them when they first show up.

An Ontario-based newspaper called Cottage Country Now also discusses how volunteer firefighters can be ill-equipped to deal with the trauma of their jobs. Part of this comes from constantly working with survivors -- or seeing those who did not survive. "You're seeing people on the worse day of their life; their house burnt down, they had a heart attack, something bad happened," researcher Brad Campbell told the paper. Campbell's study is one of the first major studies of PTSD in firefighters.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

96% of 9/11 Survivors Suffer PTSD Symptoms

A survey of 3,271 evacuees of the World Trade Center found that almost all of them -- 95.6% -- had displayed at least one symptom of PTSD.

A full 15% of survivors tested positive for PTSD in the 2-3 years following 9/11.

"PTSD risk was greater among survivors who experienced serious life threat as defined by location in the towers, time of evacuation initiation, or dust cloud exposures," said the study's first author, Laura DiGrande, in a prepared release. "As one would expect, individuals who were exposed to several of the most troubling and life-threatening events during the disaster were at the greatest risk of PTSD."

The study found a few interesting statistics: lower-income survivors were more likely to develop PTSD, as were blacks and Hispanics. People whose employers were killed also seemed to develop PTSD at a greater rate.

Meanwhile, exactly what each of these survivors encountered seemed to affect their changes of developing PTSD. Some where injured, some saw "horror," others were caught in the dust cloud, some were on very high floors of the Twin Towers. Those who experienced more than one of these situations had significantly greater levels of PTSD, to the point where the authors could even come up with a mathematical formula for the risk of PTSD based on the number of factors the individuals encountered.

The study appears in the online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The full paper is behind a subscription firewall, but you can read the abstract here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sexual Harassment and PTSD

A new study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examines why (and how) sexual harassment can cause PTSD.

The paper is behind a subscription firewall, but here's the abstract:

Researchers have compiled significant evidence demonstrating that sexual harassment leads to psychological harm, including the full symptom picture of PTSD, but few have examined the psychological processes involved. Research on attributions among trauma victims would suggest that causal attributions and perceptions of control may be important predictors of outcomes. The authors discuss a study involving a path model that used data from 189 women involved in sexual harassment litigation. Results indicate that both self-blame and harasser blame were positively related to PTSD symptoms. Control over recovery and the perception that future harassment is unlikely were both related to fewer PTSD symptoms. Unexpectedly, perceived control over future harassment is related to higher levels of PTSD symptoms. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Here's the link:

PTSD Symptoms and Sexual Harassment: The Role of Attributions and Perceived Control — J Interpers Violence