Thursday, June 12, 2008

Post-traumatic Stress and the Military

A recent study published on the British Medical Journal website shows that there has been a threefold increase in cases of self-reported post-traumatic stress disorder of individuals who have been exposed on military combat. The study was conducted by a group of researchers in San Diego. The results of the study prompted certain individuals to criticize the impact of military deployment on one’s mental health.

A post–traumatic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that can be triggered by an extremely stressful and shocking event. Individuals may experience this condition when a traumatic event happens or when a traumatic event happens to someone else. Some people who are involved in traumatic events or witness them often experience short periods of difficulty adjusting and coping. But with time, and some healthy coping methods, such traumatic reactions usually get better on their own. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months, or even years. Sometimes, they may even completely disrupt your life. In these cases, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The San Diego reporters studied the effect of deployment on over 50,000 military personnel who were taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study – a 22-year study of the health of US military personnel. Data obtained between July 2001 and June 2003 shows that the participants who were surveyed showed signs and symptoms of post-traumatic disorder. Combat exposure was assessed by researchers as the primary cause of post-traumatic disorder among the personnel. The development of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms was measured using recognized criteria. The researchers also recorded significant information like cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking problems; these were also recorded.

The San Diego study shows that overall, new incidence rates of 10 to 13 cases per 1,000 persons a year, and suggest a threefold increase in the onslaught of self-reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or diagnoses among recently deployed military personnel with combat exposure.

In general, overall prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in the US military is considered low. However, a significant number of new cases can be expected based on the number of service personnel deployed and exposed to military combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important to identify the individuals who experience symptoms to prevent the development of more serious conditions.

The study is a reminder that military personnel, like us, are still human beings. They can also be vulnerable at times, despite their background and the training they have undergone. The debilitating effects of this condition can be prevented through extensive counseling. Popular methods are group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Both these methods can be extremely effective in helping the sufferer understand and deal with the traumatic experience. They are generally performed or facilitated by a qualified therapist who is experienced in treating that type of trauma.

Many people tend to ignore the signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome, either because they think it will go away with time or feel embarrassed to talk about it. However post-traumatic stress syndrome can quickly become unmanageable and take control of a person's life. It is important to seek professional help should you have these symptoms or have experienced a traumatic event recently.

Resource Box : Emmanuel Chavez is a sports writer and holds a graduate degree in Sports Nutrition. He is active in promoting weight loss programs and healthy lifestyle among inner city youth.

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