Psychotherapy Rates Are Low In General
“Psychotherapy rates are low in general. They’re actually even lower outside of VA,” says Dr. Natalie Hundt, a research psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. “On top of that, both of the PTSD therapies VA focuses on are trauma-based therapies, meaning the patient would have to discuss details about the traumatic event that happened to them.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that “patients can be very reluctant to discuss what happened. They have the attitude that the trauma is something they’re trying to forget and by bringing it back up they’ll only make it worse.”
That reluctance to engage, combined with a lack of buy-in on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, can make it a hard sell to Veterans already struggling with other barriers to care. They may be reluctant to seek treatment due to a perceived stigma around mental illness, or because they live in rural areas and would have to travel too far. Many have full-time jobs or young children that make it difficult to find time for mental health treatment.
“But beyond all that are Veteran fears that they’ll break down or fall apart and lose it if they talk about these experiences,” says Hundt.
Symptoms Of Ptsd In Veterans
While you can develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, sometimes symptoms dont surface for months or even years after you return from deployment. While PTSD develops differently in each veteran, there are four symptom clusters:
Suicide prevention in veterans with PTSD
Its common for veterans with PTSD to experience suicidal thoughts. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesnt mean that you are crazy, weak, or flawed.
Help A Veteran To Seek Mental Health Treatment
One of the first and most difficult tasks in treating a veteran with PTSD is getting the veteran to acknowledge there is a mental health condition in the first place. One way to help these veterans is by encouraging them to seek counseling or treatment.
According to a fact sheet from the Rand Corporation, veterans and active military personnel are often reluctant to seek care for mental health concerns. Potential reasons for veterans reluctance to pursue mental health treatment include the perception that it is a sign of weakness, fear of potential career repercussions for seeking treatment and skepticism about the effectiveness of such treatments.
This is where families and friends can help. Addressing these concerns and encouraging a veteran to seek help for PTSD can prove immensely beneficial to all parties involved.
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Seek Help And Treatment From The Va And Other Military Resources
While friends and family can be helpful to veterans with PTSD, there are more advanced services and treatment options offered by the VA and other military organizations to help former service members facing this condition.
The VA offers extensive inpatient and outpatient treatment services across the U.S. These services can range from initial evaluations of potential PTSD and suggested treatment options to specialized health services, including substance abuse treatment, anger management treatment and programs for female veterans. The VA also offers various forms of therapy to veterans, including family therapy, in which friends and loved ones can participate. On the organizations website, the VA offers both a directory and a map that shows where PTSD resources are available by state.
There are additional resources like Outward Bound, an organization that provides wilderness courses and programs to build leadership and confidence among participants, which offers a specialized program for veterans. The Mission Continues is another organization that provides veterans leadership and advocacy opportunities in their local communities, helping give former service members a sense of purpose and aiding them in the transition to civilian life.
Educate Others And Raise Awareness About Ptsd
A major roadblock to the treatment and rehabilitation of veterans with PTSD is a lack of understanding regarding the disorder itself. Families and friends of veterans can help their loved ones by educating them, clarifying what PTSD is and what the possible symptoms are.
PTSD does not only afflict veterans who have faced combat or military action during their time in service. It can be the result of any trauma experienced by the veteran, regardless of whether it had a violent component or not. Veterans may struggle with trauma incurred during their time in the military for several months or even years after theyve completed their service.
In some cases, people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma, according to an article from the VAs National Center for PTSD. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.
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Ptsd Treatment For Veterans: Effective Approaches
Thankfully, there are several effective and evidence-based forms of mental health care designed to treat veterans experiencing PTSD. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been a driving force in the development and testing of many PTSD treatment modalities, and VA health care facilities offer a wide spectrum of mental health services. Veterans interested in their mental health treatment options should consult resources available on VA.gov, including pages compiled by the VAs National Center for PTSD.
Recent research suggests that psychotherapy is the most effective first-line approach to treating PTSD. Psychotropic medications may also be helpful, particularly when combined with talk therapy approaches. Additionally, some studies indicate that veterans with PTSD may benefit from coping methods that they can practice independently, without clinicians present.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Ptsd
PTSD involves what is called intrusion symptoms, and you need to encounter one or more of these symptoms to be diagnosed with the disorder. Intrusion symptoms involve unwanted and difficult-to-control feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Symptoms include:
- Recurrent and intrusive memories of a traumatic event that happen involuntarily and cause distress, worry, or anxiety. The DSM also notes that children can show these symptoms through repetitive play with themes from the traumatic event.
- Dreams or nightmares that have to do with the traumatic events that are recurring. Children may also have frightening dreams that have content that is harder to connect to a traumatic event.
- Flashbacks that cause you to feel like you are re-experiencing the traumatic event that takes you out of the moment you are in. These are also called dissociative episodes, and the most extreme can cause you to feel completely absent from your current situation. Again, in children, flashbacks may be expressed through play.
- Anxiety or distress thats caused by internal or external things that remind you of the traumatic event. For example, you may experience anxious thoughts when driving on a road where you were in a car accident.
- Significant psychological reactions when youre reminded of a traumatic event. For instance, you may experience a panic attack when you think of a traumatic event.
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Less Than Half Of Veterans In Need Receive Mental Health Treatment
Its shocking, but less than 50 percent of returning veterans who need mental health treatment actually receive it. Another 30 percent of active duty and reserve personnel are also in need of mental health care. This represents about 730,000 men and women.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of them actually find the way to the treatment they need and deserve. Without treatment, these veterans are more likely to suffer through depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance use, and other severe mental health issues. In turn, these things make it even more difficult for a returning veteran to get a job, interact socially, or otherwise reintegrate into society.
Fortunately, in recent years, many organizations have begun to change this statistic. They are making mental health care more accessible for all. So, more veterans than ever before are seeking treatment for substance use disorders, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Problems Associated With Combat Stress & Trauma
Exposure to combat and operational stress can leave emotional scars that linger after deployment. While every individual reacts differently, some problems service members and veterans may notice after combat or operational stress are listed below.
- Anger or Aggressive Behavior
- Although anger is a natural and healthy emotion that may have helped you do your job while deployed, intense anger can scare people and push them away. Aggressive, hurtful behavior can also cause problems with family, friends, co-workers, and the legal system.
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Find Healthy Ways To Socialize And Collaborate With Veterans
There are many ways that friends and family can help veterans suffering from PTSD heal by socializing and collaborating with them.
When moving to a new base or post, the military helps military personnel and families adjust. This structure is often not automatically in place when someone separates from the military. The veteran and their family may have to find new ways to join or create a social community, according to a help sheet from the VAs Mental Health Services department.
As veterans adjust to civilian life, friends and family can help by finding and participating in activities with their loved one. This can include helping veterans in their pursuit of a new hobby or activity or introducing veterans to new social or peer groups.
PTSD is a challenging disorder that can impair the quality of life for many veterans. But with these tools and resources, both veterans and their loved ones can find ways to address PTSD and help former service members live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Active Duty And Veterans Help Resources
- The WWP Resource Center can assist you with information regarding WWP programs and services to meet your specific needs. Email the WWP Resource Center at or call 888.WWP.ALUM .
- Call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at or explore My HealtheVet, which provides veterans help with VA health care information, services, and locations.
- Call the Vet Center’s national number at or visit online for more information or to find the location nearest you.
- Locate non-veteran-specific mental health services online through the Mental Health Services Locator hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration .
- Take a look at Sidran. They offer a referral list of therapists, as well as a fact sheet on how to choose a therapist for PTSD.
- Veteran Crisis Line: If you are in crisis, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, or call . Veterans in need of help: Press “1” after you call, or go to Veterans Crisis Line to chat live with a crisis counselor at any time.
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Alterations In Cognition And Mood
Traumatic experiences can produce a complex mix of cognitive and emotional consequences. Veterans with PTSD can experience some or all of the following disruptions in their moods and thinking patterns, and these symptoms may combine to reinforce one another.
- Difficulty remembering certain details of the traumatic event
- Negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world more generally, such as Im a bad person,Im a weak person, or People cant be trusted
- Inaccurate, self-loathing, or self-blaming thoughts about the cause or nature of the traumatic event, such as I could have prevented this,I caused this,I should have been able to save him, or I should have died instead
- Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, or horror in connection with the negative thoughts and beliefs noted above
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
- An inability to experience positive emotions such as contentment or happiness, even when circumstances would seem to warrant them
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Mental Health And Addiction Help In Tennessee
If you are a veteran struggling with the symptoms of PTSD or other mental health issue, we can help. At our residential, long-term and outpatient treatment centers, Cumberland Heights provides top-notch mental health care to those dealing with mental illnesses, especially those co-occurring with substance use disorders. Our dedicated staff members will walk with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery, helping you to rewrite your story.
At Cumberland Heights, weve been changing lives since 1966. To learn more about our services, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team.
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Tips For Grounding Yourself During A Flashback:
If youre starting to disassociate or experience a flashback, try using your senses to bring you back to the present and ground yourself. Experiment to find what works best for you.
Movement. Move around vigorously rub your hands together shake your head
Touch. Splash cold water on your face grip a piece of ice touch or grab on to a safe object pinch yourself play with worry beads or a stress ball
Sight. Blink rapidly and firmly look around and take inventory of what you see
Sound. Turn on loud music clap your hands or stomp your feet talk to yourself
Smell. Smell something that links you to the present or a scent that recalls good memories
Taste. Suck on a strong mint or chew a piece of gum bite into something tart or spicy drink a glass of cold water or juice
Risk Factors For Ptsd In Veterans
A number of factors have been shown to increase the risk of PTSD in the veteran population, including younger age at the time of the trauma, racial minority status, lower socioeconomic status, lower military rank, lower education, higher number of deployments, longer deployments, prior psychological problems, and lack of social support from family, friends, and community . PTSD is also strongly associated with generalized physical and cognitive health symptoms attributed to mild traumatic brain injury .
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Tips & Resources For Helping Veterans With Ptsd
During their time serving our country, military personnel can encounter many kinds of traumatic events. Millions of veterans will carry that trauma with them, resulting in a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition thats triggered by a terrifying event either experiencing it or witnessing it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
PTSD in veterans is a serious issue, but many former service members and their loved ones do not know how to identify the condition or seek treatment. Because PTSD affects mental health and can be hidden, it can be difficult for health practitioners and other individuals to gauge its severity. Additionally, PTSD in veterans is often misunderstood by the public to be a condition that only affects combat veterans or those who have encountered violence firsthand. And even those who understand PTSD in veterans and its potential long-lasting harms still may not know all of its wide-ranging symptoms.
Included here are tips, tools and resources that can help friends and families of veterans who may be suffering from PTSD. Ideas range from offering assistance to veterans after they have returned home from service, encouraging former service members to seek mental health treatment and simply having friendly conversations with veterans to see how theyre feeling.
Ask The Expert Brian Klassen Phd: How Do I Respond To Thank You For Your Service
Whether they genuinely mean it or not, I dont know how to respond when people say, Thank you for your service, Sometimes I want to cry, other times I want to shout in their faceyou have no idea what I have gone through! My girlfriend thinks Im crazy. Why do I feel this way? Dr. Klassen answers your questions about mental health treatment.
Seeking Help For Ptsd
Get your medical records now, take it and make an exact copy of it.
Now, go through it and for every injury you have line by line make notes of dates, time and start asking for some form of treatment and make of copy of those notes. Trust me former doc.
Now, for ptsd as your going through your medical also, check over your service record there may be events that prove or have dates of events that will give more background for your ptsd.
This is important, make copies of everything. Go to medical and ask to speak to mental health. You do not have to tell why, just you need mental health service.
Start the paper trail now and keep copies, both in paper and on a cloud drive.
Also, you want your physical health taken care of as well.
Hope this helps, I’m on mobile at the va wishing I had this advice when I got out.
Good luck and please, put your self first and take care. Once you get out, it is a different type of battle ground for veterans and proof is the key.
Nope… Do as recommended by watson… Make a copy of your record. Get everything checked out.
I was in the navy and my body got wracked… chiropractor took scans and thought I had some disease that made my prematurely messed up. Told him I was in the military and he said “About right”.
Take care of yourself first cause they’re not doing it for you. And when you leave it will be even more so. Don’t forget there’s a shortage in recruitment so they’re not going to boot you easily.