Friday, March 30, 2012

New Study Finds 911 Dispatchers Are at Risk for PTSD

The stress of taking and responding to 911 calls can be traumatic for dispatchers, a new study finds. Taking calls about events such as officer shootings or children drowning in pools could have a lasting effect, according to the researchers, although only 3.5% of those surveyed reported symptoms severe enough to be considered PTSD.


911 Dispatchers At Risk For PTSD, Study Finds

Monday, March 26, 2012

Presentations on the neurobiology of PTSD this week

PTSD Nonprofit presents educational lectures on the negative effects of PTSD on the brain

New research shows how PTSD alters brain structure affecting the entire body

Fearless Nation PTSD Support announces a special presentation this week that explore the physical alterations of the brain by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The lecture is part of the March 2012 Brain Injury Awareness month, a nationwide event. The presentation will be repeated six times between Tuesday, March 27 and Friday March 30th. The lectures will take place in the 3D web worlds of SpotOn3D (soon to be named World Works) and Second Life, free online services anyone can access from the web or Facebook.

"New medical imaging makes it very clear now that PTSD severely alters the shape and function of the human brain, making it a brain injury" states Colleen Crary, founder of Fearless Nation and herself a PTSD survivor. "This presentation is created for the layperson to understand, with examples of brain changes that occur after trauma. We encourage anyone struggling with PTSD to join us for these meetings."

Since 2009, Fearless Nation PTSD Support has made it a top priority to create a free, easy-to-access place for PTSD survivors to become educated about PTSD, no matter their geographical location. Weekly meetings address PTSD symptom management, consumer information to make smart decisions about care, addiction recovery, and include takeaway materials and techniques to practice to manage post trauma.

This presentation will take place Tuesday at 11 AM, 12 PM and 5 PM Pacific Standard Time (U.S.), Wednesday at 12 PM and 5 PM PST, and Friday at 1 PM PST. "We welcome PTSD survivors, their spouses, families, friends, and clinicians," Crary says. "Understanding that PTSD is a real injury helps banish the misinformation and stigma surrounding this ‘hidden wound’."

Details on these meetings and easy instructions for joining the meetings can be found on the Fearless Nation PTSD Support web site

For more information on Fearless Nation PTSD Support, or to volunteer or make a donation, visit

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New study: Just 60 seconds of combat impairs memory

Just 60 seconds of all-out physical exertion in a threatening situation can seriously damage the memories of those involved for many details of the incident, according to a new study of police officers.

Police officers, witnesses and victims of crime suffer loss of memory, recognition and awareness of their environment if they have had to use bursts of physical energy in a combative encounter, according to scientists.

Researchers, led by Dr Lorraine Hope of the University of Portsmouth, found that less than 60 seconds of all-out exertion, as might happen when an officer is forced to chase-down a fleeing suspect or engage in a physical battle with a resistant criminal, can seriously impair their ability to remember details of the incident – or even identify the person who was involved. Even officers in top condition are not immune to the rapid drain of physical prowess and cognitive faculties resulting from sustained hand-to-hand combat.

The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are a stark warning to police officers, police chiefs and the courts, according to Dr Hope, a Reader in applied cognitive psychology of the university's Department of Psychology.

She said: "Police officers are often expected to remember in detail who said what and how many blows were received or given in the midst of physical struggle or shortly afterwards. The results of our tests indicate it may be very difficult for them to do this.

"As exhaustion takes over, cognitive resources tend to diminish. The ability to fully shift attention is inhibited, so even potentially relevant information might not be attended to. Ultimately, memory is determined by what we can process and attend to.

"The legal system puts a great deal of emphasis on witness accounts, particularly those of professional witnesses like police officers. Investigators and courts need to understand that an officer who cannot provide details about an encounter where physical exertion has played a role is not necessarily being deceptive or uncooperative. An officer's memory errors or omissions after an intense physical struggle should not unjustly affect his or her credibility."

The research, conducted on police officers in Winnipeg, Canada was coordinated and funded by the Force Science Institute. The research team in Canada included Dr Lorraine Hope (University of Portsmouth), Dr Bill Lewinski (Force Science Institute) and specialists from the Metropolitan Police in the UK.

Researchers recruited 52 officer volunteers (42 males, 10 females), with an average of eight years on the job. All officers were fit and healthy and engaged in regular exercise.

During an initial briefing, the officers were given background information about a recent spate of armed robberies in the city. The briefing included details of how the robberies were conducted and witness descriptions of the perpetrators. Half of the officers then engaged in a full-force physical attack on a 300lb hanging water bag and the others (a control group) were assigned as observers. Officers selected their own "assault movements" on the bag attack — punches, kicks, and/or palm, elbow, and knee strikes—and were verbally encouraged by a trainer during the task. They continued the assault on the bag until they no longer had strength to keep going or until they were breathless and struggling to continue.

The next part of the test required the officers to approach a trailer that a "known criminal" was suspected of occupying. On entering the trailer, the officer found themselves in a realistic living area where a number of weapons, including an M16 carbine, a revolver, a sawn-off shotgun and a large kitchen knife were visible. After a short delay, the "target individual" emerged from another room and shouted aggressively at the officer to get out of his property. The individual was not armed, but several of the weapons were within easy reach.

Dr Hope found those who had been asked to exert themselves physically remembered less about the target individual and made more recall errors compared to the control group of observers. The officers who had been exerted also recalled less about the initial briefing information and what they did report was less accurate. Officers who had been exerted also reported less about an individual they encountered incidentally while en route to the trailer. While more than 90 per cent of non-exerted observers were able to recall at least one descriptive item about him, barely one-third of exerted officers remembered seeing him at all.

Everyone remembered seeing the angry suspect in the trailer, but non-exerted observers provided a significantly more detailed description of him and made half as many errors in recall as those who were exhausted. These observers were also twice as likely to correctly identify the suspect from a line-up.

However, another striking aspect of the findings showed that exerted officers were able to register threat cues in the environment to the same degree at non-exerted officers.

These new findings reveal that although exerted officers were able to pay attention to the threatening aspects of the scene, their ability to then process other aspects of the interaction was affected. As a result of this, some information may only have been processed weakly or not at all – resulting in an impaired memory for many details of the encounter.

A PDF of the paper can be found here

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walmart therapy?

Going to Walmart can be pretty scary under the best of situations, but what if you also have PTSD? 

The Pentagon is apparently telling vets with PTSD that one way they can confront and overcome their anxieties is to go visit Walmart stores and other big-box retailers that are "often busy and noisy, and some people may be hidden behind things — and all those are perceived as dangerous," according to a recent story from Bloomberg News.

What do you think? Do Walmart's low, low prices offer a way to lower PTSD symptoms?

Read more:

Pentagon tries Walmart therapy to help traumatized troops

Monday, March 19, 2012

9 in 10 firefighters suffer PTSD

A new study out of New Ben-Gurion University in Israel shows that 9 in 10 firefighters showed symptoms of PTSD (24%) or partial PTSD (67%).

The study was conducted by Dr. Marc Lougassi, who is not just a doctoral student at the university but is also a firefighter himself. It examined 342 active Israeli firefighters who had been exposed to traumatic events since 1997. The study excluded any firefighters with histories of psychiatric treatment or chronic pain, as well as anyone who had suffered a head injury.

According to Dr. Lougassi, "Professional firefighters are frequently exposed to extreme stress during their work in emergency situations. In addition to the physical challenges of firefighting, they must evacuate burned and injured victims or bodies. Their involvement in traumatic events exposes them not only to the pressures stemming from the traumatic event itself, but also to post-traumatic emotional expressions that result in secondary traumatization."

In addition to "normal" firefighter duties, Lougassi said that firefighters in Israel are frequently "exposed to additional traumas such as war and terror strikes."

It is unclear if Lougassi's study was published in a scientific journal or if it was just announced by the university.

Read more:

Ninety Percent of Firefighters Exhibit Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't blame PTSD for Afghan shooting

While many in the media have speculated that PTSD was behind a soldier's recent shooting rampage in Afghanistan which left 16 people dead, it's unlikely that this is really the case."Post-traumatic stress disorder has a cluster of symptoms, and violence, or violence against, others is not usually considered part of that diagnosis," Paul Newhouse, a professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and a former Army psychiatrist, told CNN. "So I think it's more likely that we're going to discover that there was some either psychotic illness or delusional condition or some evidence that this person was more seriously deranged or impaired than we would typically see in PTSD."


Mental illness more likely behind Afghan shooting than PTSD, psychiatrist says -