Married to PTSD

14 Sep 2017

American Civilians view the return of a veteran as being a happy time. Online videos romanticize the soldier surprising his un-expecting family with the homecoming. But what happens when the cameras quit rolling and the veteran returns to a civilian world as a changed person; one living with PTSD

The Veteran 

A deployed soldier lives a life of high intense emotions. At every second, they are on high alert of enemy forces, staying alive, keeping their fellow soldiers alive, all while completing a mission. This becomes the soldier's new way of living. When the soldier returns home, it is hard for them to turn this mindset off.   

Returning to family/civilian life is completely different from what they have lived for months. Often times, all the burdens of taking care of the family are still left up to the spouse of the veteran. 

The Spouse  

In addition to the soldier suffering from PTSD, the VA is now recognizing the effects of secondary PTSD on family members.   

One of the biggest changes a spouse may endure is caregiver burden.  Although the veteran is home with the family, they are still detached, leaving all the family decisions to the spouse. The spouse not only takes care of the "normal" household burdens but now they have to learn how to adapt to the veteran being a part of the family.  The spouses learn to watch for the PTSD triggers in an attempt to prevent the veteran from disrupting the flow of family living. Sooner or later, the spouse loses a sense of self and becomes like the person they are trying so hard to protect.   

Help is all you need 

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD before things get out of control. While PTSD is not curable, it is treatable.  Life, as it was once known may only be a distant memory, but a new better life is obtainable for those that seek and receive treatment.  For more information about PTSD, please contact us.

New Study on Young Veterans, PTSD, and Fight or Flight Response

03 Aug 2017

A recent study found that young veterans with PTSD have an increased fight or flight response during mental stress. The research provides important insights into how to protect veterans with PTSD from the effects of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Medical experts have long suspected that over activity in the sympathetic nervous system was a factor in treating veterans experiencing PTSD. This study led by a team at Emory University was the first to measure the activity directly and analyze the potential mechanisms behind it.

Participants were tested for their reaction to two types of mental stress, mental arithmetic unrelated to PTSD and first person war images and sounds recreated through virtual reality goggles. Sympathetic nerve activity was recorded using techniques including microneurography whereby electrodes are placed inside a nerve. The researchers found that post-9/11 veterans with combat-related PTSD had an increased fight or flight response during mental stress, higher adrenaline levels, and less control of their heart rate in response to blood pressure changes.

The findings are significant given that an estimated 14% of post-9/11 veterans experience PTSD, and related increased risks for high blood pressure and heart disease. The researchers hope to use the findings to improve diagnosis and treatment. Currently, most doctors recommend controlling high blood pressure through lifestyle changes such as eating a low-salt healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and losing weight. Drugs such as Thiazide diuretics and beta blockers may also be prescribed.

Stay up to date on disability benefits and other issues affecting veterans. Contact us at the Veterans Law Group to learn more.

The Latest In PTSD Treatment: An Online Tool, Medical Cannabis, and Service Dogs

07 Jul 2017

PTSD is an issue that many veterans struggle with. Every veteran either has some degree of PTSD themselves or has a close buddy who suffers from it. Here are the latest developments and news about PTSD treatment.

VA Releases Online Tool to Help Deal With PTSD

The Veterans Affairs has recently released a new online tool that is designed to help returning military personnel deal with the effects of PTSD. The tool, called PTSD Treatment Decision Aid, has a lot of information, videos, and presentations about various treatments for PTSD, such as talk therapy. Users can also build charts to compare the various treatments to help them decide which one they prefer.

Colorado Approves PTSD for Medical Cannabis Treatment

Governor John Hickenlooper has recently approved PTSD as a condition that qualifies for treatment with medical cannabis. It is the first condition to be approved for cannabis treatment in Colorado since 2001. Nineteen other states have already approved PTSD as a qualifying condition.

Research Into Effects of Service Dogs on PTSD

Researchers at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for the Human Animal Bond are conducting a new clinical research study to find out what effects service dogs have on veterans suffering from PTSD. It’s been suggested that bonding with dogs can produce positive emotional reactions which can help people deal with PTSD. The new study was created to discover exactly how and which PTSD symptoms are affected by service dogs. The study is being done in partnership with K9s for Warriors.

For legal help for veterans, contact us today!

This Happened in a Man's World: Female Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma

01 Jun 2017

The rate of suicide for female veterans is six times the rate of their civilian counterparts, and there is a very strong association between PTSD, sexual victimization as children and during military service, and suicide. The majority of efforts through the VA focus on the significantly larger population of male veterans, though recent efforts have been made to reach out to female veterans with women's clinics. But many women still see the VA as a man's world, part of the same man's world as the military. And that world is both a source of pride and betrayal. 

Female veterans are dealing with a great deal of ambivalence about their service, and are suffering the effects of PTSD and other mental and physical health effects of service. With a system that seems steeped in the same male culture that engendered the sexual assault, the VA is not the first place female vets turn to for help. The military is both the system they wanted to serve, and be a part of; it is also the system that, for many women, condoned silence in the name of loyalty.

With a pattern of sexual exploitation as children, and the dangerously high rates of revictimization and sexual assault in the military--a 2013 Rand study showed 26,000 cases of sex abuse across uniformed service--women veterans face challenges coping with their PTSD. President Obama signed the Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill in July 2016; the bill calls for concentrated efforts for outreach and collaboration between mental health professionals. However, changing the culture that has engendered this degree of sexual violence against women and children is not going to begin by trying to take care of the victims.

Women veterans are at higher risk of suicide and debilitating mental health, and have less access to healthcare that addresses their particular needs. For more information on PTSD, please contact us.

Orange Essential Oils, Genes and PTSD

25 May 2017

One of the challenges of dealing with PTSD is the difficulty of finding an adequate treatment. There are few medications for PTSD that are FDA-approved. However, relief may soon be easier than you thought.

Scientists at George Washington University have conducted research that found that orange essential oils (essential oils are naturally produced by plants) can reduce the symptoms of fear-related emotional issues, including PTSD.

During the research, it was discovered that mice who were treated with orange essential oils were less likely to display fearful behavior later on. In addition, they had fewer immune cells that were associated with the biochemical pathways linked to PTSD.

Essential oils are much more economically viable than pharmaceutical medications. They can be mixed with food and drink, applied to the skin, or inhaled. Although the full impact of orange essential oils on PTSD still needs to be studied further, this does show a promising start for a possible treatment.

In related news, new studies have shown that PTSD may be linked to DNA and genes. A study by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium showed that certain genes are possibly linked to PTSD and that European and American women are more genetically likely to develop PTSD. People with a genetic risk for other emotional issues, such as schizophrenia, are also more likely to develop PTSD. The study pooled together data from 20,000 people who were involved in 11 various multi-ethnic studies around the world.

Are you a veteran suffering from PTSD in need of legal help? Contact us today!

PTSD and Sleep Deprivation

04 May 2017

Surveys suggest that 70 to 90% of people with PTSD suffer from sleep deprivation, with veterans falling in the higher numbers. This inability to fall asleep or stay asleep often leads to difficulty dealing with daily life. The major causes of lack of sleep include hyper-vigilance, nightmares, fear of going to sleep, guilt, substance abuse, stress and physical as well as emotional pain.

Hyper-vigilance appears due to the need to stay alert against potential danger.  In the case of combat veterans, both training and experience underscore the necessity of being alert to stay alive. Once ingrained for several months or years, the habit of being constantly on one's guard causes major difficulty in falling asleep.  Add to that, the fact that the brain activated certain chemicals to assist alertness makes it not only difficult to go to sleep but remain so.

Nightmares and flashbacks are major complaints of those suffering from PTSD. Combat veterans, of course, are subject to many horrific events leading to nightmares and flashbacks, both of which not only interfere with sound sleep, but cause the sufferer to postpone sleep in order to avoid bad dreams or experiencing another flashback.

Many veterans have suffered injuries while in combat and the residual pain from those injuries keep them from sleeping well. They may also have guilt that they lived while friends in their unit died or that they are a burden to their loved ones.

The results of sleep deprivation are not surprising.  They not only include fatigue, but increased panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, smoking, memory problems, impairment of judgement and suicidal thoughts. In other words, those who suffer from sleep deprivation are at more risk for medical problems and damaging behavior.

Health professionals are trying many kinds of treatment, not only for the disorder itself, but for the loss of sleep connected with it.  Most of these treatments involve both medicine and counseling.  One new medicine, for instance, Prazosin, has proved to help prevent nightmares for patients with PTSD.

In addition, two interesting studies are being further examined for validity.  One showed that subjects given a sense of safety slept better than those given techniques to simply to reduce fear.  From that study, researchers concluded that sleep loss was less about fear and more about feeling safe. The second study showed that PTSD and subsequent sleep deprivation produced a vicious circle in which the lack of sleep either produced PTSD or made the existing problem worse. As a result of these two studies, counselors and physicians are concentrating on finding more ways to help their patients reduce stress and create personal environments that feel safer to them.

If you are a veteran experiencing symptoms of PTSD that are causing difficulties in your life, contact us.  We may have the answers you need.

Discharge Upgrades

27 Apr 2017

Veterans must have a discharge from military service under honorable conditions to be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration.

Many veterans have been discharged dishonorably, even with a Bad Conduct Discharge, unjustly or erroneously. Some veterans have been punished and discharged dishonorably due to undiagnosed psychiatric illness caused by experiences in the service. PTSD is a common psychiatric diagnosis that may not be diagnosed in service but can cause service members much difficulty. PTSD may be responsible for conduct leading to a discharge under other than honorable conditions. Victims of sexual assault, often with PTSD, have been and continue to be discharged dishonorably.  Many victims do not report assault or suffer repercussions from commanders for doing so.

Personality disorders have been diagnosed by some military psychiatrists leading to discharges preventing a veteran from getting benefits as these are considered pervasive and usually existing prior to service. Veterans discharged because of an alleged personality disorder may be able to have their reason for discharge changed if they can substantiate that the personality disorder was improperly or erroneously diagnosed. This can be particularly important if there is another psychiatric diagnosis that is applicable and occurred during or as a result of service.

Thousands of veterans were discharged during the years that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was in force. Those that were discharged dishonorably may be eligible for an upgrade.

The Department of Defense is making a renewed effort to encourage veterans to apply for discharge upgrades.

Reasons for requesting an upgrade must be explained. The veteran will have to justify why their discharge was unjust or erroneous. Medical records may need to be submitted if relevant to the claim.

Veterans who were discharged within the last 15 years should complete DD Form 293. Those that were discharged more than 15 years ago should submit DD Form 149.  Both forms should be submitted to the veteran’s respective service. The address to submit to is listed on the form.

Don’t leave your application to chance. Let our experienced law firm help you get the upgrade you deserve and gain access to the benefits you earned.

New Research Shows Relationship Between Hormone Levels and PTSD

14 Apr 2017

Can hormones have anything to do with PTSD? For decades, researchers have grappled with the question of whether abnormal cortisol levels have any effect on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases when faced with dangerous situations that require a flight-or-fight response.

Although previous studies were inconclusive, new research by the University of Texas at Austin and published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reveals that cortisol levels do play a role -- but only when testosterone levels are suppressed. The studies suggest that previous research failed to take into account the effect testosterone levels have on cortisol and its relationship with stress levels.

As part of the studies, 120 soldiers were tracked before, during and after their deployment and combat duties overseas in Iraq. Saliva samples were taken to determine hormone levels. Before deployment, soldiers were exposed to stressful situations. The natural response to stressful situations is an increase in cortisol levels. Soldiers who didn’t show such an increase -- in other words, those who had an abnormal cortisol level -- were more likely to develop PTSD after combat.

These studies are part of the Texas Combat PTSD Risk Project, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

So, how can such research benefit soldiers and veterans? The answer: By helping researchers develop preventative interventions to reduce the risk of PTSD. With the aid of more research, scientists can analyze soldiers’ hormone levels and reactions to stress before their deployment and help develop preventative measures that will reduce the risk of PTSD later on.

For more help with PTSD, just contact us

Taking a Long Walk: Wilderness Therapy for Veterans

23 Feb 2017

Several outdoor adventure and wilderness therapy companies and organizations are offering specialized outdoor adventures for veterans. These can range from fishing and camping weekends to rafting and wild river trips, to Outward Bound for Vets. Some are designed as a quick relaxing getaway, others are man versus nature and full of an adrenaline rush. One wilderness program, Warrior Expeditions, is different, and offers the support for vets to take a long walk.

The first man to walk the entire length of the Appalachian trail from Georgia to Maine was taking a long hike to recover from the memories of war. Earl Shaffer decided to walk off his war, to get the sights and sounds and memories out of his head and heart, and find out who he was. He wanted to discover how the war had changed him, and what he had left of the person he was before. This was in 1948, and it took him four months of walking to complete the trail.

When Sean Gobin returned from multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he also took to the Appalachian Trail, and found that the time, the quiet, and the act of being in nature gave him time to process memories and issues he had kept buried. The process reminded him of the way military people used to walk home from wars, or take long slow boats. Those long trips home gave people time to process and transition from military to civilian life. With modern transportation and the quick turn-around today, veterans can go from a battlefield across the world to their kid's elementary school within a week.

Sean decided to start Warrior Expeditions because of the benefits he found for himself in the long hike. The organization provides support of several kinds for veterans who want to make a long hike. They offer gear and equipment, a small stipend, food and supply restocking along the trail, and support partners in small towns along the trail, veterans and their families who host hikers for a hot meal and a night in a bed.

Since Warrior Expeditions first developed their Warrior Hike program, they've expanded to supporting hikes on long trails across the country, from the Pacific Coast Trail, the Continental Divide, and others. They've also started river expeditions, a long canoe trip down the Mississippi, and long biking trips for vets with disabilities.

The support is very necessary for the trips to be successful, but the true value of the expeditions comes with the time, and the quiet. Being outside in nature with a like-minded friend or just yourself, with only the immediacy of the trail, you have time to think, or not think and just feel. 


For more veteran's topics, please contact us.

Evidence Based Treatment for PTSD

09 Feb 2017

Evidence based treatments are those that have been studied, researched, and developed over time. Clinicians that use these treatments are trained and certified to practice them. These treatments have been used successfully on many veterans and civilians who have experienced a traumatic event and are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

All the listed treatment protocols include an educational component. The treating clinician will also provide relaxation training and help their client learn processes and utilize resources to remain safe during the treatment process and beyond. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement and focus help clients address specific traumatic incidents. EMDR uses desensitizing and reprocessing techniques while simultaneously using eye movement and focusing while the client is telling their trauma story.

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

This treatment focuses on help with coping skills. Relaxation training is an important component to address anxiety and fear. Breathing exercises are also learned as an important part of relaxation. Assertiveness training is used to help clients learn how to practically express emotions

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

One of the symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. PE involves telling one’s trauma story repeatedly over time. Part of the treatment also includes learning how and practicing reintroduction into those places and events which are triggering even though not traumatic. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT focuses on writing about one’s traumatic experience. Often those who have a traumatic experience become focused on beliefs about the trauma and its meaning that become distorted when experiencing life after the trauma. This treatment helps challenge assumptions and helps the client recognize and correct distorted thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to remember that each of these treatment programs requires intensive training for the clinicians who provide it. Veterans seeking and/or receiving these treatments should only seek treatment from providers who are trained in these practices.

Contact our experienced firm to help with your VA claim for disability and/or access to the treatment you earned and need.

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