Tuesday, June 20, 2006

PTSD and Stuff via FR

Iraq War May Add Stress for Past Vets

Disclaimer: PTSD is a secondary diagnosis in my case, not the primary.

More than 30 years after their war ended, thousands of Vietnam veterans are seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, and experts say one reason appears to be harrowing images of combat in Iraq.

PTSD researcher John P. Wilson, who oversaw a small recent survey of 70 veterans -- nearly all from Vietnam -- at Cleveland State University, said 57 percent reported flashbacks after watching reports about the war on television, and almost 46 percent said their sleep was disrupted. Nearly 44 percent said they had fallen into a depression since the war began, and nearly 30 percent said they had sought counseling since combat started in Iraq.

"Clearly the current Iraq war, and their exposure to it, created significantly increased distress for them," said Wilson, who has done extensive research on Vietnam veterans since the 1970s. "We found very high levels of intensification of their symptoms. . . . It's like a fever that has gone from 99 to 104."

Wilson was one of the primary researchers responsible for PSTD being included in the DSM. I met with him briefly in Cleveland in the early '90s. Interesting character.

Max Cleland, a former U.S. senator from Georgia and onetime head of the VA who was left a triple amputee by the Vietnam War, said the convergence of age and the Iraq war has created problems for many of his fellow veterans -- as well as for himself.

"As we Vietnam veterans get older, we are more vulnerable," he said. When the war started in 2003, he said, "it was like going back in time -- it was like 1968 again."

Now he goes for therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and is wary of news from Iraq. "I don't read a newspaper," he said. "I don't watch television. It's all a trigger. . . . This war has triggered me, and it has triggered Vietnam veterans all over America."

There are those who believe that PTSD is not a real desease, perhaps with some justification, but after years of working with vets I'm convinced that there is SOMETHING to it.


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