PTSD Articles

Diagnosis Day, Part One: A Lesson in Gratitude

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Diagnosis Day, Part One:  A Lesson in GratitudeNo one wants to be told he or she has cancer.  The initial lack of control and feelings of helplessness are often traumatic experiences. The usual reactions are anger, depression and terror-laced anxiety.

While survival rates for many cancers have improved, there are quality of life issues following the diagnosis, including the emotional difficulty of coping with the anniversary date.  Survival rates are measured in 1-, 5- and 10-year markers.  This often creates an emotional conflict as the diagnosis date approaches.  Each year provides a measure both of success and trepidation.  Diagnosis day is when the war on cancer begins in your body.  It is sometimes shortened to military lingo for the day an attack or operation is launched: D-Day.

As with most traumas, people can tell you the vivid details of their diagnosis. They remember the time, what was said, what they did, and what they felt.  D-day is etched in their psyche, and as the anniversary date approaches, so does the anxiety.

But one woman, Jen Cunningham Butler, has done something different. In honor of breast cancer awareness month I wanted to tell you her story.

Joining the Army? You’re More Likely to Die by Suicide than Combat

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Joining the Army? You're More Likely to Die by Suicide than CombatIn a sad commentary about the state of affairs of a modern army, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that there are “still huge gaps” in the way mental disorders are diagnosed within the military.

With over 150 active military suicides so far in 2012, if you’re in the U.S. military, you’re more likely to have died by your own hand than you were to have died in combat.

This, then, is apparently not a good time to be in the military.

Farah Mohamed, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, has the story.

Your Government TSA: Traumatizing 4 Year Olds in Kansas

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Your Government TSA: Traumatizing 4 Year Olds in KansasThe U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) defended the actions of its agents yesterday, saying they were only following procedure when they insisted on doing a patdown on a traumatized 4-year old girl. I hope the family finds a way to sue the TSA for all of the psychological counseling this little girl is going to need in the future.

The girl, Isabella Brademeyer, had already successfully passed through the security checkpoint at the Wichita, Kansas airport. But then she went over to hug her grandmother — her grandmother — who was still being processed by the TSA. The TSA pulled the grandmother, Lori Croft, out for a pat-down because she apparently set off the metal detector.

But c’mon… the little girl? She’s 4. She didn’t know any better.

That set off a flurry of activity among the TSA agents, who then insisted that the 4-year old also needed to undergo a patdown. Again… because she hugged her grandmother.

Mindfulness and the Military: Does Self-Acceptance Help Veterans?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Mindfulness and the Military: Does Self-Acceptance Help Veterans?“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” 
~Thich Nhat Hanh

 “You have to make the mind run the body.”
~General George S. Patton Jr.

A recently published article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by Kearney, McDermott, Malte, Martinez, and Simpson (2012) may have broad implications for veterans suffering with symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

These researchers demonstrated that engagement in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) showed significant improvements after six months in reducing soldiers’ symptoms of PTSD, depression, behavioral activation (the ability to engage in activities to achieve a goal in spite of aversive symptoms), and self-acceptance. 

Interview with EMDR Creator Francine Shapiro

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Interview with EMDR Creator Francine ShapiroEMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) helps clients process traumatic experiences and get past their past.

This month we had the pleasure of speaking to EDMR creator Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., whose book, Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy, was recently published.

In our interview, Shapiro shares more about the book along with how she discovered EMDR, how it works and the research that supports it.

Click through to read an excerpt from the interview.

The Mental Health Hope Symposium: Do Not Cut Mental Health Care

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

The Mental Health Hope Symposium: Do Not Cut Mental Health CareConsider these alarming statistics:

* By 2020, behavioral health disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.

* Of the more than 6 million people served by state mental health authorities across the nation, only 21 percent are employed.

* More than half of adolescents in the United States who fail to complete high school have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.

* Between 2009 and 2011 states cumulatively cut more than $1.8 billion from their budgets for services for children and adults living with mental illness.

* In 2009, there were an estimated 45.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness in the past year. This represents 19.9 percent of all adults in the U.S.

*Serious mental illnesses cost society $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

* The annual total estimated societal cost of substance abuse in the U.S. is $510 billion.

* In 2008, an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 and older in the U.S. has a serious mental illness.

With our economy still in the toilet, states and federal government threaten to cut even more dollars in mental health funding, which would result in less or no access to mental health treatment and services for countless Americans. Ultimately the cuts steal the one thing that keeps those of us struggling with chronic mood disorders alive: hope.

Research Update: Childhood PTSD, Perinatal Depression, Anxiety Symptoms

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Research Update: Childhood PTSD, Perinatal Depression, Anxiety SymptomsMeta-analysis is a scientific term that refers to a structured review of a particular topic in the research literature. Meta-analyses look at a bunch of research studies that have been previously published, combine all their data (or look at all of their data in a systematic fashion), and come to some broad, general conclusions from the analysis.

Meta-analyses are helpful to researchers, clinicians and laypeople alike, because they help distill the entire research literature on a specific topic into an easily digested summary.

In this research update, we look at cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for childhood posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), effective treatments for depression in a mother surrounding the birth of her child, and a look at anxiety symptom prevention with cognitive-behavioral interventions.

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Is Anyone Normal Today?Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

In Honor of Those Who Serve, 2010

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

In Honor of Those Who Serve, 2010Today is Veteran’s Day, and we’d like to take a moment to honor those men and women who have chosen to serve our country in military service. With an all-voluntary armed forces, our country is at the mercy of individuals who, for little reason other than a desire to serve their country, willingly risk their lives and put their entire ordinary lives on hold (especially those in the National Guard and reservists). For you and I.

We should do all that we can to ensure these folks come back to a country who welcomes them home, is thankful for their service, and provides them with all the necessary health and mental health care humanly possible. That’s our duty, as ordinary citizens, to recognize the sacrifice these men and women have made.

I’d also like to take a moment to recognize a number of organizations that were present this year at the 26th annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy this year, who offer help and mental health services to returning veterans.

Honoring Soldiers When They Come Home

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Honoring Soldiers When They Come HomeLast week at the 26th annual Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Policy Symposium, I came away from the two days feeling like there are a lot of people who know and care about the issues discussed. This year’s topic was on helping returning soldiers — especially the National Guard and Reservists — reintegrate within their family, the workplace, and the community.

It seems timely to talk about some of these issues to honor tomorrow, Veterans Day.

The most moving stories for me came from the day’s first panel discussion, focused on the family. Ron Capps, a 25 year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, told his story of dealing with the realities of war, and then of coming home and dealing with his feelings.

“At the end of the day, I found myself categorizing myself as ‘All right, vaguely not all right, and seriously not all right.'”

“It’s All In Your Head:” Living with Chronic Illness

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Living with Chronic IllnessSomewhere I read that properly diagnosing a chronic illness can take from two to three years. Many of you wait even longer. In the meantime, while the doctors scratch their heads, we’re expected to be happy we’re alive. And that’s if they don’t write us off with “It’s psychological.”

It took a year and three doctors before I was diagnosed with scleroderma. Just remembering what I went through during that year-from-hell gets my blood boiling and I know I was one of the lucky ones.

If you are experiencing symptoms but don’t have a diagnosis yet, here are some tips that I hope will help you get through this trying time a little easier.

Trust yourself. You are not crazy. Physicians have referred many people to me before they had a diagnosis, even doctors who don’t know what else to do for their patients.

ALL of them eventually received a medical diagnosis. That’s right. All of them.

9 Tips for Coping with a Hurricane

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

9 Tips for Coping with a HurricaneWith another hurricane on the warpath up the East Coast of the U.S. this week, many people are scrambling for shelter and safety. Evacuations are taking place, and while everyone is rightfully focused on their physical safety, our emotional health is at risk during times of increased stress too. There are ways you can better cope emotionally with an impending hurricane — to brace yourself emotionally from the significant amounts of stress you’re about to endure.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that a hurricane is a fairly short natural event. For most people, it means having to deal with a couple of days of moving out of the area and then moving back. While the effects of the hurricane may endure much longer — especially if your home was damaged or destroyed — the actual hurricane itself tends to move fairly quickly through each region.

The impact of having to deal with the significant damage of your home or even losing it altogether can be much greater than the stress of getting out of the hurricane’s path. People who lose part or all of their home go through a typical grief reactions — grieving the loss of all that they’ve accumulated or built.

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