Implications for combat veterans as the APA considers revisions to the DSM-V.
This past week, the American Psychiatric Association was meeting in Philadelphia for, among other things, discussion of proposed changes to next year’s DSM-V. Among the presentations in the military track of this year’s conference, the top listed presentation is titled “Combat Related PTSD: Injury or Disorder?”
Ron Capps of Time Magazine’s blog, and others, are convinced the new name for Combat Related PTSD must include the word “injury” in order for soldiers to take their diagnosis seriously. According to John Gever at Medical News:
Some in the military and veterans community had lobbied to replace the word “disorder” in PTSD’s name with “injury,” as less pejorative and permanent-seeming. The workgroup on trauma- and stressor-related disorders did not do so, but they did rewrite its definition considerably—in particular, adding 9 dimensional assessments to the checklist criteria and splitting PTSD in children from PTSD in adolescents and adults.
Despite Assistant Secretary of Defense Jonathan Woodson’s recent memo to all military branches about the overprescription of antipsychotics like Risperdal for PTSD, military figures with close connections to Big Pharma were also scheduled presenters at the APA meeting. More than half of the authors of the DSM have links to the pharmaceutical industry, says Peter Alhous at New Scientist. The implications to military personnel are grave.
The drugs prescribed to troops suffering with PTSD are not just dangerous, says Martha Rosenberg in “The Mind Druggers” on Counterpunch and on her blog on AlterNet. These “pharmaceutical cocktails” are capable of making troops with traumatic brain injuries and other signature Iraq/Afghanistan injuries worse through alterations in brain chemistry and biology.
Alternative therapies to pharmaceuticals include talk therapy with a clinical therapist, who may use tools such as EMDR as part of trauma recovery, says Dianne Dragon, a pastoral intern and peer counselor who has worked with many soldiers suffering from PTSD. According to Dragon, some people suffering the long-term effects of trauma report relief from symptoms can come from receiving deep tissue massage, reiki, or other healing arts.
A companion animal may provide comfort and support. One organization, Soldier’s Best Friend, matches shelter dogs with combat veterans who suffer PTSD, to be trained either as Certified Service Dogs or as Emotional Support Animals. These dogs can make symptoms like agoraphobia, hypervigilance, insomnia, and panic attacks less acute.
The best way to honor the memories of our fallen on Memorial Day is to rededicate ourselves to healing the wounded. Combat related PTSD will not change names in the new DSM-V, but healing modalities will continue to expand and be refined, particularly as the risks of pharmaceutical treatment become more clear. The war in the Middle East has stretched for more than a decade, and as after every war, we must find a place here at home for those who served. We owe it to our soldiers to ease their suffering, caused or exacerbated by combat. When the fighting is over, they deserve to lay down their arms and rest.
—Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN/Flickr