Military Connection: A New Way to Fight PTSD: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

Transcendental-Meditation

Beginning in 2010, Congress named June 27th as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day. Since then, June has been recognized as a month to raise PTSD awareness throughout the U.S.

PTSD is a condition in which the body’s fight or flight response becomes overactive following a life threatening or horrific event, and can make those affected feel stressed or panicky, even when they are no longer in any danger. An image, sound, smell, or even a memory can trigger a PTSD reaction.

PTSD experts from the VA claim that approximately 7% of all adults suffer from PTSD. Military Veterans are among the most susceptible. Somewhere between 11% and 20% of Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. The VA also claims that 10% of Desert Storm Veterans and 30% of Vietnam Veterans suffer from PTSD.

The numbers could be even higher because many military personal and Veterans don’t report their PTSD symptoms due to the stigma that goes with admitting that they have mental health issues. For many decades, admitting to and seeking treatment for a mental health concern negatively impacted one’s military career. The negative stigma is slowly diminishing, and the military has policies in place to protect its members from retribution for mental illness.

While prescription medications are the most common form of treatment for PTSD, many psychiatrists are now recommending Transcendental Meditation to treat the condition.

Transcendental Meditation involves sitting down, twice a day for 20 minutes, and visualizing a specific word or sound assigned by the psychiatrist. Over time, through meditation, the patient is intended to find a peaceful state of mind.

Brain imaging tests have shown that those who practice Transcendental Meditation regularly have more alpha rhythms, the slow brain waves that are associated with reduced stress. Other studies have found that Veterans have a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of regular Transcendental Meditation.

I practice Transcendental Meditation daily, and have found it to be extremely valuable. While I do not suffer from PTSD, I feel that Transcendental Meditation eases the stresses of my fast paced life as CEO of Military Connection. I learned about Transcendental Meditation through the David Lynch Foundation and also received my training from them.  I highly recommend the use of TM to others.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: A New Way to Fight PTSD: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Red Flags for Veteran Families: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie Gregory

 

Red flags

Like it or not, military deployments often change people. Many previously deployed service members feel like they don’t fit in when they return. Their social behaviors can change. They might be more serious. This is normal. But there is a difference between changed behavior and alarming behavior. While most families have their ups and downs, military families don’t always have the luxury of consistent time together to gauge what is normal behavior, and what should be addressed by professionals.

After families are reunited, there is often a period of readjustment. While some people may think that transitioning from the war zone to suburbia should be a no brainer, it is not always that easy. It’s not like you can just flip a switch in your head. There are behaviors that were taught and engrained in that service member’s brain that kept them alive, and they don’t forget them that easily.

And just like the service member, the military spouse has to adjust their routine to get by in the absence of their spouse. Military spouses have to play both mother and father to their families during deployments. Upon reuniting, these new routines collide with former household harmony.

Military families can expect some bickering; this is normal. It is common for military families to be so happy to have their service members home safely that they try to avoid fighting at all costs, even letting some undesirable behaviors slide. But MilitaryConnection.com would like to help families identify some alarming behaviors that military families should be on the lookout for.

First of all, physical abuse should never be tolerated. If a service member ever strikes a spouse or a child, it should be reported immediately. An outburst that leads to physical abuse could be a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be treated. Military spouses aren’t doing their children, their loved one or themselves any favors by not reporting abuse.

Threats of abuse and self-harm from the service member should also be considered as a sign that they need to seek counseling. Very often, an affected service member doesn’t want to hurt others. They might threaten or attempt self-harm as a way to make their mental pain stop. This includes abusing drugs and alcohol. Any military family that observes these behaviors should seek help for their loved one.

Military families should also be alarmed if the service member is over emotional or completely unemotional about their family, their service or their futures. This goes far beyond a single instance of crying or not caring. But consistent occurrences of these behaviors could mean that there is something that your service member should seek counseling for.

The military is trying to reverse the stigma of seeking help. The days are over when a military career is ruined by merely seeking help. There are many locations and methods for seeking 24/7 help, including counseling for service members and military families.

The Veterans Crisis Line: 1(800) 273- 8255 [1] or text 838255

Military OneSource: 1(800) 342- 9647

Defense Centers of Excellence: 1(866) 966- 1020; email: [email protected]

Give an Hour: www.giveanhour.com

Military Families can also look into local resources in their communities, on their installations, and within their commands. It doesn’t matter where the help is coming from, so long as your families are safe and taken care of.

5 Vietnam Vets File to Change Their OTH Discharge Statuses Due to PTSD

vietnam_vet_patch

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. military Veterans don’t like it when anyone tarnishes the reputation of their country, their branch of service and their traditions. Some Veterans take considerable offense when one of their own steps out of line. For decades, many Veterans, even decorated combat Veterans, have been considered outsiders if their discharges were dis-honorable in nature. These Veteranswere often banned from private Veterans clubs and even denied VA benefits. Some would argue that these “initiated” Veterans should have known better and acted appropriately.

But what if these Veterans’ actions were not the result of dis-honorable intentions? What if these Veterans couldn’t control their own behavior due to symptoms of an affliction that was not yet recognized when they were separated? What if these Veterans damning actionswere actually symptoms of PTSD?

In March, five Vietnam Veterans (3 former Marines and 2 former Army Soldiers), along with the Vietnam Veterans of America, filed a suit that seeks to have their Other Than Honorable discharges reviewed and potentially reconsidered by the Boards for Corrections of Military Records from the Army and Marine Corps.

The suit claims that the military has unfairly denied applications for discharge upgrades from those with less-than-honorable discharges who likely had PTSD when they were kicked out of service, in an era when the disorder was much less understood than it is today. The plaintiffs hope that the suit will be granted class-action status, which could pave the way for thousands of other Veterans to have their discharges reexamined.

According to the suit, less than 20 of the 375 requests for discharge upgrades involving PTSD have been granted to Vietnam veterans since 1993. The five plaintiffs in this suit all have applied for discharge reviews and were denied or never heard back from their branch’s boards.

The five Veterans in the suit claim to have suffered considerably due to their OTH discharge status. They were denied VA benefits for service-connected injuries and were unable to find sustainable income due to employers seeing their OTH status.

The DOD has until May 2, 2014 to respond to the suit.

Stronger than the dislike that Veterans have for someone tarnishing their reputation is the compulsion to take care of their own. It is seen as a great injustice if any Veterans were denied anything, especially because of injuries sustained in service to their country. If this is the case, let us hope that these wrongs are corrected and these Veterans are given the overdue support that they earned.

Would You Test a PTSD App for Stanford University?

ptsd-app

By Debbie Gregory.

One of the biggest concerns for combat Veterans is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Service members who survived the horrific events of war and witnessed the aftermath when the dust cleared often struggle with the brain’s inability to cope with the memories of those experiences. Many people don’t understand PTSD. Our service members volunteer to be put in the position where serious bodily harm and death can occur.  They also face the risk of a lifetime of unmanageable memories from events that occur while in the military.

A number of government agencies, including the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), continue to fund programs that treat service members and Veterans with PTSD and also fund programs that research PTSD in order to better treat symptoms and provide the best care for service members. One of the programs that the VA has funded has developed a mobile application (app) that Veterans and service members can download onto their personal smartphones. The VA sponsored app was designed to offer rapid care for users who suffer from PTSD. The app provides users with general information of PTSD, a self-assessment tool, helpful methods to cope with their ailment, and also informs them where they can locate support services. In one study, users reported having fewer PTSD symptoms after using the app for as little as one month.

Currently, a research team from Stanford University is conducting a more in-depth study of the VA’s PTSD app. The team is asking for PTSD sufferers to volunteer for the study.

For three months, participants will be randomly split into two groups. One group will have access to the app, and the other group will not. After the study period, both groups will be allowed to use the app, and all the participants will fill out surveys from their experiences. All participants must be PTSD sufferers 18 years or older, who are not currently being treated for their PTSD symptoms. The study does not require in-person visits as part of the study. All volunteers must also have their own smart phone (iPhone or Android) and be able to download the free app.

Veterans are no strangers to duty and responsibility. This research project provides a great opportunity for Veterans and service members who suffer from PTSD to participate in an effort to improve treatments for themselves, their current brothers and sisters in arms, and future PTSD sufferers.

If you are interested in participating, please contact research coordinator Nitya Kanuri at [email protected] or call (650) 485-3465.

American Legion Aides the Fight Against TBI/PTSD

American Legion Aides the Fight Against TBI

By Debbie Gregory.

Many Veterans often feel a loss of camaraderie after they separate from active duty. Reconnecting with battle-buddies and talking about their feats is one of the most effective methods for combating the aches of military separation. It is for this reason that so many Veterans join social clubs such as the American Legion. Veterans’ organizations are a great place for Veterans to meet and congregate with people who have shared similar experiences, both in uniform and since their separation.
Veteran social organizations, besides offering places for fellowship to occur, often address issues that are relevant to Veterans. Many Veteran clubs actively participate in campaigns to improve Veterans’ lives.
For example, during the month of February, the American Legion is asking Veterans to participate in a survey designed to improve the lives of Veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The survey is voluntary and only for those Veterans who suffer from TBI or PTSD.
The survey is being conducted to directly benefit all Veterans, especially the 2.4 million members of the American Legion. It is a continuation to a previous report that the Legion’s Committee on TBI and PTSD released on September 11, 2013. The report pointed out several shortcomings in the diagnoses and treatment of TBIs and PTSD. The results were made public and shared with the VA and medical officials within the DOD.
Questions for the survey were developed by the American Legion and the Data Recognition Corporation. Included in the confidential survey are questions that concern gender, era of service, number of deployments, diagnoses, types of treatments, as well as reported symptoms and side effects. The American Legion is hoping that their questions will provide the medical community with data provided by unique individual experiences that only Veterans can provide.
If you have suffered from TBI or PTSD, please take a few minutes to complete the American Legion’s survey online. The survey will be conducted from now through February 28, 2014, and is open to all Veterans who have suffered from either condition.

Method of Diagnosing PTSD through the Bloodstream being Developed at UCSB

pt

By Debbie Gregory.

Imagine if Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be diagnosed in a similar fashion to diabetes? Could doctors actually be able to determine whether or not someone suffers from PTSD, just by checking their blood? Research is currently underway at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that could ultimately make this type of diagnosis possible.

Researchers at UCSB’s College of Engineering are currently developing a device that could be used to test for PTSD in soldiers on the battlefield. The research is funded by the U.S. Army, and focuses on the engineering aspect of diagnosing PTSD. Naturally, this technology could also be used in medical facilities back home in order to prevent service members and Veterans from going undiagnosed and falling through the cracks.

Research and development for the device began after a discovery that properties of PTSD can be identified in the bloodstream of those affected. Chemical changes occur in a body when someone experiences high levels of fear and stress caused by external events. These chemical changes can affect how a body’s DNA is recorded and reproduced in new cells. Chemical changes caused by PTSD can cause irregular methylation patterns. This irregularity can affect how proteins found in DNA copy and express genetic code.

Currently, PTSD is usually diagnosed only after a person exhibits observable behaviors of the disorder, such as nightmares and hyper-arousal. PTSD sufferers usually have to submit to psychiatric counseling before they can be diagnosed. Many Veterans go undiagnosed and untreated for PTSD. Untreated PTSD can lead to high levels of anxiety, depression and even suicide.

Various testing methods include a device similar to a pregnancy test, a test that works like a blood glucose test, and another method would be through a blood test, similar to HIV testing.

Hopefully, the research being done at UCSB can result in a definitive, efficient way to diagnose PTSD. Those who have fought for their country deserve a fighting chance to conquer their mental health ailments. This all begins with the diagnosis.

The VA Offers Support Website for Family-Member Caregivers of Veterans with PTSD

ptsd support

By Debbie Gregory.

Like their family who serves or has served, military family members sacrifice in support of their country. These parents, spouses, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and children of American service members have had to say goodbye to their loved one, often multiple times, hoping that they come home safely. It is an agonizing experience that tests the bonds of every military family. For many of today’s military families, the sacrifice does not end when their hero separates from the armed forces. With the heightened occurrences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Veterans, family members often have to become caregivers for this ever-growing number of Veterans.

To say that living with a Veteran who has PTSD is difficult would be a huge understatement. Veterans who suffer from PTSD can experience nightmares, night terrors, and flashbacks. Instead of turning to those closest to them for help and support, they often pull away. Family members who are caregivers for these Veterans observe their the suffering, from something that is difficult to comprehend.

Veterans with PTSD often exhibit unusual behavior that can be difficult to deal with. Veterans affected by PTSD sometimes insist on sitting in certain areas of the room. This can be annoying for the caregiver at home, but trying to manage this behavior out in public can be an unbearable task. But behaviors like this can be easier to manage if the caregiver can understand their source. The ailing Veteran has been traumatized by a horrific occurrence that they usually had no control over. A death or multiple deaths of comrades, the witness of those deaths and others have forced the affected Veteran’s brain to protect itself in order to function for his or her own survival.

This trauma may cause those who suffer from PTSD to constantly feel like they are in danger. This endless feeling of doom can result in feelings of anxiousness or irritation, and may lead to episodes of panic or withdrawal and isolation. Veterans with PTSD are also reluctant to make friends or connect with people, for fear that they might lose them, too.

In the same way that someone with PTSD can’t relax for fear of sudden danger, caregivers begin to remain constantly vigilant for things that could trigger an episode or anxiety for the Veteran. In fact, there are many reported instances where caregivers begin to display some of the same behaviors as their family member who suffers from PTSD. Many in the behavioral health community refer to this as “Secondary PTSD”.

Aside from Secondary PTSD, caregivers can also suffer from caregiver burnout, which is the deterioration of the physical, psychological, or medical health of a caregiver. This is a direct result from the time spent with the affected individual.

In order to support the family members who provide care for a Veteran suffering from PTSD, the VA has established a Caregiver Support portal on their website. The portal offers advice, encouragement and a sense of community to caregivers. It also proves them with links and numbers to other services and resources, including the number for the VA’s Caregiver Support Line: (855) 260- 3274. This is a valuable service for military families who continue to sacrifice so much in support of their hero.

Coach helps Manage PTSD Symptoms

ptsd coach

By Debbie Gregory.

A coach is highly respected as one who leads to victory. A coach can help reach goals.

The Veterans Administration has developed a website that will help with managing the troubling symptoms of PTSD. The PTSD Coach Online website is a self-help tool that builds coping and problem-solving skills. Veterans with PTSD can learn to manage troubling symptoms such as trouble sleeping, trauma reminders and anger. There is also a PTSD Coach mobile app, but you don’t need a smartphone for PTSD Coach Online. Anyone who has Internet access can access its tools.

PTSD Coach Online is for anyone who needs help with upsetting feelings. Trauma survivors, their families, or anyone coping with stress can benefit through the following:

  • Self-Assessment: Self-assessment of PTSD symptoms with individualized feedback, and the ability to track changes in symptoms over time. The assessment does not formally diagnose PTSD.
  • Managing Symptoms: Coping skills and assistance for common kinds of post-traumatic stress symptoms and problems, including systematic relaxation and self-help techniques.
  • Assistance in finding immediate support: Enables individuals to identify personal sources of emotional support, populate their cell phones (via the app) with those phone numbers, and link to treatment programs. And in an emergency, users can quickly link to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Learn about PTSD: Education about key topics related to trauma, PTSD, and treatment.

The site also offers 17 tools that deal with a variety of PTSD symptoms, and how to develop the following problem-solving skills:

  • Be in the Moment
  • Change Negative Thinking
  • Identify Your Values and Goals
  • Look Carefully at Your Thoughts
  • Change Feelings by Changing Thoughts
  • Deal with Trauma Reminders
  • Learn to Be Assertive
  • Notice Your Thoughts and Feelings
  • Relax Through Breathing
  • Relax through Visualization
  • Weigh the Pros and Cons
  • Write to Reflect
  • Change How You Think About Sleep
  • Form Good Sleep Habits
  • Learn to Problem Solve
  • Plan Something Enjoyable
  • Relax Your Body

Although the PTSD Coach Online can help you with symptom management, problem solving and skill building, it is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment and care.

To find PTSD Coach Online, the PTSD Coach Mobile App and other resources on trauma and PTSD visit www.PTSD.va.gov.

New Technology Leads to Proper Treatment of PTSD and Depression

new technology

By Debbie Gregory.

Saving our soldiers is of the utmost importance.  War veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, along with their families, say military commanders, policy-makers, health care providers, and communities need to take further steps to help make their transition into the civilian community seamless. That way, they say, the country can better deal with the results, including substance abuse, homelessness, rising divorce rates, and the mental anguish that can lead to suicide.

Brainwave research has led to new insights into psychiatric disorders, and help guide future development of new anti-psychotic drugs. This new research can greatly benefit returning veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and depression. Military veterans often suffer with depression and other mental health issues. Up until now, drugs have been the go-to solution for treating various mental issues, mostly on a trial and error basis.

PTSD and TBI coexist because brain injuries are often sustained in traumatic experiences.

So often people talk about the effects of traumatic brain injury or the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder as separate conditions — which they are. PTSD and TBI coexist because brain injuries are often sustained in traumatic experiences. But for the person who is living with the dual diagnosis of TBI and PTSD, it can be hard to separate them.

PTSD is a mental disorder, but the associated stress can cause physical damage. TBI is a neurological disorder caused by trauma to the brain. It can cause a wide range of impairments and changes in physical abilities, thinking and learning, vision, hearing, smell, taste, social skills, behaviors, and communication. The brain is so complex, the possible effects of a traumatic injury are extensive and different for each person.

When PTSD and TBI coexist, it’s often difficult to sort out what’s going on. Changes in cognition, such as memory and concentration, are common with both diagnoses. One basically feeds and reinforces the other, so it’s a complicated mix —the perfect storm. It may help to consider and compare changes commonly seen with TBI and PTSD.

Doctors using the PEER Interactive database to help predict which medications their patients will respond to have reported their success rates have improved two to threefold.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community began a clinical trial using PEER Interactive.  During the clinical trial military physicians will treat 2,000 volunteer patients with a primary diagnosis of depression.

Veterans want better system to respond to PTSD

Veterans want better system

By Debbie Gregory.

Doctors began tracking a psychological condition among WWI combat Veterans as early as 1919. The condition then was known as “shell shock”. Veterans were suffering from symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety, but science could offer little in the way of effective treat. That was early in the 20th century.

No one comes home from war unchanged. Soldiers are supposed to be tough, cool, and ethically confident. But what happens when they have seen and done things that haunt their consciences? New studies suggest that the pain of guilt may be a key factor in the rise of PTSD.

Sleeplessness, anger, anxiety and a sense of isolation are symptoms of PTSD. But with early detection and adequate access to counseling, the psychological and neurological effects of combat are treatable.

The Department of Defense has taken significant steps to expand research into psychological and neurological injuries. But inadequate screening and shortages of mental health professionals in the military have kept troops from getting the care they need.

PTSD is primarily treated with psychotherapy. An emerging field for the treatment of PTSD is animal therapy. Who better than man’s best friend to help Veterans overcome PTSD? An animal can draw out even the most isolated personality, and having to praise the animals helps traumatized Veterans overcome emotional numbness. Teaching a dog service commands develops a patient’s ability to communicate, to be assertive without being aggressive, a distinction some struggle with. Dogs can also relieve the hyper-vigilance common in Veterans with PTSD. Some participants report they finally got some sleep, knowing that a naturally alert soul was standing watch.

Another alternative therapy is yoga. Yoga is not usually the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about treatment for post traumatic stress disorder in Veterans. But from the Veterans Administration to the Pentagon, yoga classes are becoming not just commonplace, but in some rehabilitation programs, mandatory.

Veterans unhappy with traditional treatment alone should do their research and talk to their doctor.