Kathryn DeHoyos discusses what we know, or more importantly what we don’t know about PTSD.
Very little is known today about the root causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), referred to as “shell shock” during and after WWll, but a new study soon to be published in Psychological Science by a Danish psychologist, Dr. Dorthe Bertnsen and her colleagues may help answer some important questions. What is PTSD? And is there any way to predict who may be more susceptible? As the Pacific Standard recently reported,
A traumatic brain injury is understood to be as dangerous a wound as the kind that bleeds. Psychologists like Brett Litz of Boston University even speak of “moral injury”—an act of transgression that violates a soldier’s ethical or religious code, and leaves its scar chiefly on the soul, rather than the body or the brain.
With the war in Iraq ended, and troops gradually returning from Afghanistan, it is more important than ever for us to understand what our soldiers may be facing as a result of their service to their country. Although PTSD has received attention both in the media and the government recently, solid statistics on the number of servicemen suffering from this illness are sketchy at best. According to the Congressional Research Service,
PTSD affects some 27 percent of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, while the suicide rate among male veterans is quadruple that of civilians. Those figures only include soldiers who sought help through VA hospitals, suggesting the actual numbers are higher.
The report by Dr. Bertnsen and her colleagues however should help answer some of the more difficult questions concerning who is more likely to suffer from PTSD and why. The Danish team found that,
There is no single PTSD experience, and any number of factors, not just combat exposure but childhood trauma and education level, influence how a veteran deals with the emotional aftershocks of war.
Much more research is needed before it can be said with any degree of certainty that we understand what causes and how to treat PTSD. But this recent study is a significant step in the right direction. One can only hope that with both public and governmental awareness growing or returning servicemen will finally receive the care and treatment they deserve.