Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The 2nd Infantry Division is experiencing a surge in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers who rotated here from assignments in Iraq or Afghanistan, says a senior health official...

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when a person is exposed to a traumatic or life threatening event such as war, assault, sexual assault, natural disasters or disasters in general, Dorritie said.

Symptoms include panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, outbursts of anger and irritability, concentration and attention problems and the inability to relax, she said...

Thirty percent of soldiers who serve in combat zones develop full-blown PTSD and 25 percent have at least some symptoms, Dorritie said. “So at least half of the soldiers in combat zones will have (some form of) PTSD.”
I want to tread lightly here...because I do not want to appear to assign this problem less gravity than it is due.

However, whether it is misquoting by the reporter, or misspeaking by the health official, it seemed to me that the statistics quoted in this article are high.
The article concludes that at least half of our soldiers will have some form of PTSD.

I can't get the site to open, but Google preview allows me to see this statement:
PTSD is observed in up to 30% of those who have been in combat zones
In my mind there is a huge difference between "up to 30%" and "30% will develop".

Then there is this statement from a University of Alabama Birmingham (Good Med school there by the way) site:
About 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD.
Which would seem to discount the "half our soldiers" comment.

My point? Let's not ascribe illness to those who don't have it, let's not create "victims" where they are not and moreover, let's not sow panic where it is not warranted.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

According to the VA, all soldiers experience PTSD. It is a normal combat/battle condition. However, most of the symptoms resolve themselves within 6 months so the post traumatic stress disorder is considered acute.

Those whose symptoms do not resolve themselves have Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and account for about 30% of the soldiers returning from battle.

No figures have been published for the the gulf wars or Vietnam. The figures for WWI and WWII are askew as there was a major fire in the central VA warehouse. To add to this, veteran's that don't get service disabled with the VA, those who get private treatment, or those who get no treatment are not in the calculations.

Chronic PTSD can be delayed by years. It is often a silent disease.

My soldier/son and I spent the morning at the VA discussing PTSD. The VA has individual counseling, groups, inpatient, and outpatient services.

PTSD was called railroad spine in the 1860's, soldier's heart during the civil war, shell shock in WWI, battle fatigue in WWII, post-Vietnam syndrome, rape trauma, battered woman syndrome, police officers shooting trauma, abused child syndrome, and finally in the DSM in the early 1980's--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don't know where the numbers came from in the media article or the website you saw, nor whether they are discussing acute or chronic PTSD. Regardless, they are inaccurate. All soldiers experience post traumatic stress syndrome to one degree or another. When your wife returns home, you will be briefed about this and how to help her during redeployment. Whether any soldier continues to experience these symptoms, when the symptoms might occur, or the severity of the symptoms can not be predicted or prepared for, but PTSD is treatable and help is available. Good luck.