This is part two of a two-part blog series during PTSD Awareness Month. Part one ran last week.
Myth: All of the symptoms a combat veteran experiences after return from a war zone are attributable to PTSD.
FACT: Often, people may confuse certain reactions that follow a traumatic experience with PTSD. However, PTSD is diagnosed when a person has a number of symptoms within several different categories, occurring over a certain time frame, resulting in a significant impairment in one’s social, occupational, and/or general life functioning.
Why is this important?
It is normal for combat veterans to experience adjustment difficulties and depression distinguishable from PTSD. This may be primarily due to the changes they experience in returning to society, having different responsibilities (e.g. job roles, family duties), identity changes, and loss of daily camaraderie.
Grief may also be present due to loss. Anger and frustration may occur in response to the sudden changes and there may be a difficult adjustment period. Often PTSD, depression, grief, and anger symptoms overlap so it may be difficult to discern what is actually going on. In an attempt to manage confusing emotions, combat veterans may abuse alcohol or other drugs.
In addition, the high level of self-reliance and stigma of seeking help in service members may lead people to not seek treatment until they are in crisis. A CVN clinician can help veterans who experience difficulties following deployment to address their symptoms using the best treatment possible.
Myth: Once I have PTSD, I have it forever.
Fact: Recovery from PTSD is not only possible, it is likely with the right treatment.
Why is this important? Although the memories of traumatic events do remain for life, the extreme reactions to having them and the associated debilitation can be eliminated through treatment. Experiencing the symptoms of PTSD can be extremely devastating and frightening. However, similar to depression, PTSD creates a lens of how a person views the world, themselves, and others in a very negative light and can be difficult to see a way out.
Now with over 30 years of investigation, researchers have demonstrated that the majority of clients treated by psychotherapy successfully recover from PTSD or dramatically improve. There is also strong evidence that early detection and accurate intervention lead to the best results.
The types of psychotherapy that show the strongest evidence for improvement and are strongly recommended by the American Psychological Association are Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, all of which each Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) clinics provides by experienced and compassionate clinicians. Additionally, CVN clinics provide support and therapy for families and caregivers coping with an individual who is suffering from PTSD.
Kristy Center, Ph.D., is the lead clinician at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Center specializes in providing clinical interventions and research in assessment and treatment for veterans with PTSD and co-occurring mental health conditions.