Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a diagnosable mental disorder, can develop in veterans following exposure to traumatic events such as sexual assault and combat.
While most trauma survivors return to normal lives given sufficient recovery time and robust support systems, some experience worsening stress reactions over time, leading to PTSD.
How many veterans have PTSD?
Data shows that between 11-20% of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and 12% of Gulf War veterans have service-related PTSD annually.
In a more striking figure, approximately 30% of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetimes.
Symptoms of PTSD can surface immediately or years after the trauma, divided into four primary clusters:
- intrusive thoughts of the event
- avoidance of trauma reminders
- negative thoughts or feelings
- irritable behavior
These symptoms can escalate to other mental health problems, including:
- substance abuse
- cognition issues
Consequently, certified medical professionals’ intervention is often needed for those with persistent, severe PTSD symptoms.
Treatment for veterans with PTSD is critical for their mental health recovery.
Multiple therapeutic approaches can be utilized with PTSD and The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a range of services to help veterans cope, from traditional counseling and therapy to newer, more innovative methods such as virtual reality exposure therapy.
In this blog post, we talk about how PTSD is treated and the different types available.
How is PTSD Treated?
With advances in modern medicine and medication, there are several effective and forms of mental health care available to treat combat veterans and veterans who are experiencing PTSD.
In fact, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has been integral in developing and testing many PTSD treatments.
Most VA health care facilities offer all different sorts of mental health services.
Veterans interested in their mental health treatment options should take a look at the resources available on VA.gov, including information on pages compiled by the VA’s National Center for PTSD.
The most effective approach to treating PTSD is psychotherapy.
Psychotropic medications, especially when combined with talk therapy, are also beneficial in PTSD treatment.
Additionally, some studies indicate that veterans with PTSD may benefit from coping methods that they can practice independently, without the help of clinicians or mental health providers.
What are the Specific Types of Treatment for PTSD?
The American Psychological Association (APA.org) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA.gov) strongly recommend the following PTSD treatment options and practice guidelines:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on how thoughts, feelings, and actions influence one another. The goal of CBT is to change patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors about the traumatic experience and related subjects. A related but different approach called cognitive therapy focuses on changing painful memories about the traumatic event that affect daily functioning.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): This type of therapy strives to help people develop use critical thinking to understand their traumatic experiences.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This form of therapy involves recalling the trauma while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound controlled by the clinician.
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): This approach focuses on progressively challenging negative feelings and altering patterns of avoidance as a result of a person’s traumatic event.
There are also some psychotropic medications that have been demonstrated to be effective treatment options for people with PTSD.
These prescription medicines can be combined with psychotherapy in a multifaceted approach to PTSD treatment.
Medication is typically prescribed by a doctor or psychiatry.
There are four antidepressants that have the strongest clinical support for treating PTSD. They include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
Only a qualified medical professional can prescribe medication for the treatment of PTSD and is typically recommended in conjunction with other mental health services.
What Else Works for Coping With and Managing PTSD Symptoms?
Outside of traditional medicine, several “self-help” methods are helpful in managing PTSD symptoms.
These alternative practices are recommended by mental health experts to use as a complement to ongoing mental health treatment.
- Physical activity: Exercise is a proven stress reliever. Exercise also helps to elevate mood.
- Aromatherapy: Smells like orange essential oil are proven to mitigate negative emotions associated with PTSD.
- Mindfulness practices: From formal meditation to simply noticing one’s senses, practicing being present can reduce trauma reactivity.
- Deep breathing: Available anytime, anywhere, this easy technique can be surprisingly effective.
Despite the wide variety of treatment options, veterans face barriers to medical treatment.
They must have either an honorable or general discharge to access Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical benefits.
Unfortunately, there can be long waiting lists at VA medical centers for treatment.
However, there are nearly 200 PTSD treatment programs across the United States that offer:
- Mental health assessments and testing to figure out if you have PTSD
- Medicine that is proven to work for treating PTSD
- Psychotherapy (also called talk therapy). This includes proven methods like those therapies mentioned above.
- Family therapy
- Group therapy for special needs, like anger or stress management, or combat support
- Group therapy for Veterans who served in certain combat zones
Additionally, over the last decade or so, more unique treatments have emerged that you may not know about.
Read more in our article below!
If you or a loved one have symptoms of PTSD and suffered a serious injury, personal trauma, sexual trauma, or were threatened with injury, sexual assault, or death while serving in the military, you may be able to get disability compensation or benefits.
If you have been denied and are filing an appeal, we can help. Feel free to complete this free case evaluation on our website or review our ebook The Road to VA Compensation Benefits below.
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