Monday, November 23, 2009

Study sheds light on post-combat mental problems

Study sheds light on post-combat mental problems

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are typical after deployment to a war zone, and may even represent a healthy reaction to stress, but can lead to problems with mental functioning if they persist, new research in Iraq vets suggests.

Past research has demonstrated that people exposed to life-threatening situations will show changes in their nervous and hormonal systems, Dr. Jennifer J. Vasterling of the VA Boston Healthcare System and her colleagues note, but it's not clear how long such symptoms last after exposure ends, and if they do last, what the consequences might be.

Vasterling and her colleagues are conducting a long-term study called the Neurocognition Deployment Health Study to help answer these questions.

In the current report, Vasterling and her team report the outcomes of neurological and psychological assessments of two groups of soldiers before and after deployment to Iraq.

Their study included 164 male and female Army soldiers assessed about a year after their return, and 104 tested an average of just 122 days after they had returned.

The researches found no relationship between the amount of time since a soldier had returned from deployment and his or her "neuropsychological" function.

There was no relationship between PTSD symptoms soon after deployment and the ability to pay attention, but the soldiers who still had PTSD symptoms a year after they returned from combat had a harder time focusing and paying attention.

The researchers also found that soldiers who had experienced more intense combat showed improved reaction time both soon after their return and a year later.

Attention problems can be very relevant to how a person functions in daily life, Vasterling noted in an interview, even though the deficits that she and her colleagues identified were relatively mild.

The hope, she said, is that these problems will resolve once a person's PTSD is treated. However, the researcher added, there are also strategies that can help people cope with their attention problems until they get better.

She and her colleagues are continuing to follow the soldiers, and one interesting question, she noted, is whether the increased reaction time they identified in those exposed to more intense combat might have a downside.

"You have to wonder how taxing that gets, to be constantly prepared for a long, long period of time," Vasterling said.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, September 2009.


I am not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but the military has seen this since 1776, the Civil War, WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam, this is not exactly a new problem, but the past has had different names for it "soldiers heart" "weak" "drunks" etc it was not until 1980 when the diagnosis of PTSD was added to the DSM as a mental health problem.

One of the main reasons is that after Vietnam there were to many veterans that could not function in society, they withdrew, the Army did not offer mental help, instead if you asked for help you were accused of being a coward, they labeled the PTSD veterans with Personality Disorders (which they were still doing as late as 2006) which keeps the combat veterans from getting either retirement benefits or veterans benefits (save the Army and the VA money).

I agree that if help is available and the soldier will not ruin his career after asking for help then they would be more willing to seek assistance, but if they pull the security clearance or the soldiers ability to handle weapons, that means that they can not stay in the Army and they have ended their military career for asking for mental health care. It would be easier to resolve the stress with early care, help for the entire family, wife and kids make the adjustments when the soldier comes home, as it is stressful on the entire family, look back at the Vietnam POWs and look at their divorce rates, it was high, a lot worse than other career soldiers, which is also higher than the average for the United States, the spouses can't handle the constant coming and going or the soldier themselves feel out of place when they come home, and find out that the house has a routine that does not "need them" in it to function. Then everyone is walking on eggshells and a lot of the "eggs get broken"......

the earlier the help the better it works, let it stew and for many it becomes permanent......

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