Hidden Injury of War
October 30, 2014
Despite the major occurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression among veterans returning from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, much is yet to be understood about these conditions. Common methods for treatment include prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy and pharmacological treatment. Systematic knowledge regarding access to care and quality of care delivered in civilian, VA, and military facilities for those who encounter barriers or difficulty is limited, and recent policy reviews have strongly questioned availability and quality of ...view middle of the document...
398). With this fastening to negative memories and emotions, a victim of warfare will struggle to form new, more positive connections to the past. It is as though the war never ends for them. In the case of soldiers, in particular, this inability to let go is often associated with feelings of guilt and self-hatred, because they were participants in the violence. “PTSD involves over activation of the amygdala, a structure that mediates fear responses, as a result of reduced activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area that tamps down emotional reactions” (Bower, 2008, p.5). The affected individual is quite literally emotionally charged by the lingering fear associated with the traumatic event.
As mentioned before, the importance of proper diagnosing and treatment of PTSD extends beyond the victim themselves. It is only to the detriment of society if the young are shipped off to fight wars and brought home no longer fit to live in a way that may prevent future wars. The way in which returning soldiers are received back home may also be critical to their ability to cope with war-born trauma. After the Vietnam War, for example, a powerful anti-war mentality back home consequently generated hatred for returning soldiers, further affirming their self-deprecation and making returning to “normal” life and coping with the trauma of the war far less probable. They were outcasts.
Mental illness has received less validation because it has been so difficult to test and observe. As Stokes suggests (2012), “They might be more assured if they understood that stress is a physiological process that causes real physical (not imaginary) signs and symptoms. Cognitive behavioral training might transform their self-perception of aggrieved and helpless victim to a self-perception of resilient and adaptive survivor” (p. 399). In other words, the internal experience of a victim of warfare must be taken more seriously. It is true that our understanding of PTSD has changed rapidly in the past several decades. However, Xenakis and Friedman state (2012), “The fact that there have been changes in PTSD diagnostic is a sign in scientific and clinical progress not . . . a weakness in the rationale for the diagnosis itself” (p. 9). If this pattern of recently accumulated medical knowledge persists, the future looks brighter for victims of PTSD.
The three most common treatments methods for combat-related PTSD are Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Pharmacological treatment. Pharmacological treatment is the most common form of treatment, which should not be surprising, given that it is far easier to numb the patient. This would be the least effective, however, because the problem is only being avoided, not solved. “Prolonged Exposure (PE) is the treatment approach with the most scientific support for its efficacy” (Peterson et al., 2011, p. 168). This method involves coaching the patient back through the traumatic memories...