Some thoughts on Veterans Day...
Happy Veterans Day to everyone who served for our country. In my job, I come across a lot of veterans and in the past year I have started thanking them for their service.
Growing up, I didn’t have much exposure to veterans and didn’t know how to properly acknowledge their service without feeling awkward or bringing up something too personal. I've since realized it's a very small, but meaningful way to acknowledge their sacrifices.
Today it feels important to share some information about PTSD among veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 13.8 percent of the veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan currently have PTSD. Thats 4x the amount of occurrence in civilians.
PTSD is probably at least partially at the root of an even more alarming statistic: Upwards of 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
Exposure therapies are based on the idea that the fear response that gives rise to many of the traumatic symptoms can be dampened through repeated exposures to the traumatic event. Cognitive therapies work on developing personal coping methods and slowly changing unhelpful or destructive thought patterns that are contributing to symptoms (for example, the shame one might feel at not successfully completing a mission or saving a comrade).
Several studies have shown that patients improve most when they’ve chosen their own therapy. But even if they narrow their choices to the ones backed by the weight of the National Center for PTSD by using the center’s online Treatment Decision Aid, patients would still find themselves weighing 5 options, each of which is evidence-based but entails a different psychomedical model of trauma and healing.
This buffet of treatment options lets us set aside our lack of understanding of why people experience trauma and respond to interventions so differently. It also relieves the pressure to develop a complete treatment model of PTSD. We reframe the problem as a consumer issue instead of a scientific one.