Monday, August 20, 2007
Back to VA Tech: PTSD concerns
Today, students at Virginia Tech are scheduled to start their fall semester. It's hard to believe that only about four months ago 32 students and faculty were shot dead by a student who then killed himself.

My mind keeps drifting back to their seemingly idyllic college campus. I was one of the many journalists who came to Blacksburg in the days after the shooting. Now, I keep picturing the students walking along the pathways and rolling hills, trying to get back to normal, trying to get back to life as it was before the tragedy. As much as I can't help but think about that day, I wonder what it must be like for the students who so proudly call themselves Hokies.

Do any of them suffer from flashbacks, intense memories, nightmares, or even terror? How many of them will deal with post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD is a complex condition. According to the latest research, one out of every 10 people will develop it in their lifetime. Patients can also suffer from outbursts of anger, emotional numbness, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and sometimes survivor guilt. Often, the symptoms are triggered by sights, smells or sounds that remind a person of the trauma.

It's no surprise that most people who endure a traumatic event suffer from some symptoms of PTSD, but the effects will often subside. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, about 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women go on to develop PTSD and roughly 20 percent of those people develop a chronic lifelong form of it. The condition is associated with other ailments such as increased risk of heart disease in men.

In terms of children, Stanford researchers found that severe stress can damage a child's brain. They looked at children suffering from PTSD as result of severe abuse and found that they often suffered a decrease in the size of the hippocampus - a part of the brain involved in memory processing and emotion. What's even more startling is that this effect on the brain may make it even harder for them to process normal stress for the rest of their lives.

These days, more and more money and attention is being directed towards PTSD research, due in great part to the war. As troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, as many as 13 percent are found to have PTSD. There can be thousands more whose conditions go undiagnosed.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from post traumatic stress disorder? Do you think a person can ever fully recover? Do you think more attention needs to be paid to PTSD and other mental conditions?
PTSD can happen to any of us from a grandmother, to a three year old, to the woman you see standing next to you in the check out line. When we ignore PTSD it only continues to worsen because we ignore the big pink elephant. Should we as a society decide all of a sudden to ignore cancer in a child when they become ill or say that well grandma has a heart attack she is worthless. No, of course we wouldn't. Well, any psychiatric condition is just that an illness or hurt that needs to be treated by a professional. I fail to fathom why we sweep it under the carpet and tell ourselves we will get over it eventually. We never do...just learn to deal with it in a maladaptive way.
thank you for bringing this out. How very important this condition is many people have this and dont get the help and therapy needed. My two children who are 13 and 14 just been diagonised with this and is getting treated with this through meds and counseling.I am recently a divorced mom they saw me in abusive marriage for 14 years with there father. They now can active meembers in the society and not this disease over power them. I feel this is were alot of your crime and violence comes from or sadly sucide. Thank you again for bringing this to the publics attention.
I am a Case Manager in Virginia (previous a Veteran's Advocate)and find it most frustrating now working in the civilian field with PTSD. The Veterns Affairs offers many great extensive work shops, counciling and group theropy, but I find nothing available for my clients now.
Yes, person's who suffer PTSD can live sucessful lives with intence help. The cilvian world has become it's on battle ground / combat so to speak, just as you see at VA Tech, but our Mental Health System is not set up for this! Mental Health in our Country is pitiful beyond beleif! Help! There are not enough beds to hospitalise persons who need or ask for help in Virginia! Our Govenor's Pannel may come up with something, but he should and could open more beds at our State facilities first ...... The only big news I've heard is that the State hospitals in Virginia are going "Smoke Free" in October ... Please help!
As a retired Virginia Tech professor, I am pleased that ample counseling is available to the students, faculty, and staff. They might need it. I am not sure if you could call it a flashback but the other day I was watching a movie where the villain walked down corridors shooting people. I had to leave the room because it reminded me of what I imagined it was like in Norris Hall. I quickly found more positive thoughts to occupy my mind. I live close to Blacksburg and was worried at the time of the tragedy about a friend who was locked in Norris Hall but escaped without injury.
I have been diagnosed with ptsd after being tortured and gang raped for over three hours by people I knew. I have been under the care of a psychiatrist and psychologist for over two years as I try to get my ptsd symptoms under control. The anxiety and depression are so intense that it has completely destroyed my ability to function normally. Yes, much more research needs to be done to better equip the mental health professionals in dealing with ptsd patients. PTSD is affecting more people every year, and the effects can be quite debilitating for the patient, which will inevitably have huge affects on this nation's productivity.
My son had shown signs of PTSD when he came home on leave during his year and a half in Iraq. His symptoms were very classic, difficulty sleeping, startling at unusual noises, socially distant and very irritable. Now that he has completed his commitment to the Army and has been discharged. Some of the symptoms have gone away, and others still linger. He definately become a different person, sometimes I feel as though he is a stranger in our house. He rarely seems truly happy, he still has bouts of irritability and does not engage well at family functions, he is often referred to as being emotionally guarded and unresponsive by family members. Many soldiers, my son included avoid the stigma of being labled and he refuses to seek counseling at our local V.A. facility. I will have to say that his symptoms have improved gradually in the past 6 mo's since he has cycled out the Army and definately since he's been out of Iraq. But I have a feeling as his mother, that he has a long road ahead and alot of demons and memories in his mind that will be with him a very long time. My advice to other parents in this situation, is to keep a close watch over your childs behavior, after all we know them best. Be prepared to act and get them help and by all means keep yourself informed as to the symptoms of PTSD. Good Luck.
I'm commenting on heath care in general as opposed to the specific article. Health is going to be a continued topic of discussion as long as there are people and basically many poeple will accept the old addege of "whatever works". That is good to the extent it comes from divine motivation but aside from the already approved drugs that are on the market, those drugs that have no legal release more than likely pose more danger to health from a natural perspective. Persons who partake of these drugs can expect to develope physical and psycological ailments; ailments that are not seen by the naked eye. Even ailments that come from continued casual legel drug use which punchuates the fact that people who engage in this activity have their reward.(Mat 10:41-42 Prov. 10:27)This must be explained in a broader and lengthier context of sowing and repeaping, and blessing and cursing which right now, time precludes me to do but I will in the next few days.
I have never been formally diagnosed with PTSD but know that i suffer from it. I belong to a few message boards and have all the classic signs of it.

I was in a traumatic car accident 5 years ago. I still wake in the middle of the night, deal with tremours and panic (anziety) attacks. Especially when in a car as either driver or passenger.

The reason I dont get help? No one realizes that ordinary people can have PTSD too. People say that its only for the military to have. I have been told to just "deal with it" and "move on". So I try.....
I have worked for 10 years with high school age adolescents, many of whom struggle with PTSD and comorbid disorders. Often, PTSD goes undiagnosed for years, allowing symptoms to be entrenched and maladaptive coping skills to be developed, such as substance abuse, risk taking behavior, self-mutilation, etc. The fallout from untreated PTSD is sometimes catastrophic for individuals, ending in suicide. The earlier the intervention following the event, the more effective the treatment. Generally, in order to develop PTSD, the experience must be first hand, not viewed on TV or experienced by a close friend or relative. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective at treating PTSD. Properly conducted by a well trained CBT therapist, relief or extinguishment of symptoms is likely. In conjunction with psychotropic medication to reduce symptomology in order to engage in CBT is often useful, provided such medication is prescribed by a psychiatrist working in conjunction with a therapist. Medication alone, prescribed by a physician, is very unlikely to be effective in the long term.
What about the PTSD of the people who lived through katrina? the people of war torn Iraq, the soldiers, The people of Darfur. The hedge fund managers who are only making 2-3 million a year instead of the 10-40 million they were making. What about the PSTD that the president has in realizing that more children will be insured under chip program.
My son was in a hunting accident at the age of 14. He was shot thru the abdomen. He suffers from PTSD. He hasn't had any medical insurance since he turned 18. He is now 31 soon to be 32. There are no programs to help the uninsured. There is also not much information for family members on how to help. He has a small social world and has a pretty good outlook, but still would like to talk to someone.
When I was 7 years old, I watched my mothers boyfriend shoot her dead. I actually ran through the gunfire. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I would scream, cry out and hit the walls while I slept. While I am 34 now, and sleeping a little more peacefully, I still have problems with anxiety and depression. To hear a gunshot brings me to hysterics. I also walk in my sleep. I tried therapy but I wasnt into it. So I am pretty much clueless as to what to do now. I dont like medication either. However, I did take up meditation and you know what? I feel a lot better. I am still very anxious about EVERYTHING, but the depression has eased up and I sleep way more soundly. Just a suggestion.
After reading this I realize that I may suffer from what you are calling a life long form of this. I was abused as a child for a period of time and have had problems with depression, anxiety, lack of emotion unless it was anger. I never associated this with PTSD.
I pray the students at VT can work through their problems. Being educated about symptoms and treatment is the key. I work at VT and everytime I hear a police siren, I get a sick feeling in my stomach....
Post traumatic disorder is a psychiatric condition that should be taken seriously. I know of a guy who was caught up in the Tsunami in SE Asia and as a result suffered from PTSD. After trying all kind of treatment he took the art of living breathing course ( designed by founder Shri Shri Ravi Sankar, who has been nominated for Nobel peace prize this year)that helped a great deal cope up with the stress. I myself took it and found it to be very rejunevating and healing. My advice to all sufferers is to go and try this course which is offered at various US cities.
As someone going through treatment for PTSD for years; I don't think it's something that is ever "cured" but rather "controlled" - it takes an understanding and solid support system, good medical care and the person with the PTSD needs to TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. It's taken years for me to get back to somewhat of a normal life. Yet, it took my doctor getting in my face saying "TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS. TREAT THIS AS A LIFE LONG DISEASE." Once I did that - things turned around for me. Hang in there and if you think you have it. Please, get help and some times it takes more than once to find the right therapist, medication combination and doctors.
having ptsd from side effects from the meds and the doctors is REALLY fun (sic!), and being Forced by police and courts to see doctors and take meds is Not the way to cure it - being traumatic in an of itself ...

meditation and yoga does help.
Hello again and kindest greetings from the sleepy seaside of Canada. Thank you kindly for addressing the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is real. Even the reminder of it is difficult for me to comment on. A few years ago, I was involved in a serious car crash and was diagnosed shortly after. At the time I truly didn’t understand what was happening. My whole life was turned upside down.

Sometimes what happens after the traumatic event is even more traumatic than the event itself. I felt numb as if in a fog. I cried at the drop of a hat, I had never cried so much in my life. This was very unusual for me as I was such a happy, positive and cheerful person before the ordeal. And any reminder of the traumas made me truly ill. I had never suffered anxiety before and it was a frightening ordeal. I didn’t even know what I was scared of but that is part of the disorder too. There was a point when I didn't even know if I could go on. I simply didn’t know how to cope with all that I was going through, both physically injured and psychologically too.

But for those who are soldiers I realize their pain must be acutely compounded, day after day dealing with unspeakable horrors. That must leave them with deep and painful inner scars.

The breath of life is such a miracle. We are such delicate creatures – when we stop breathing, we die. With a traumatic event we stop breathing for that moment and I think that is what changes us. Anything that is so horrible that causes you to gasp in overwhelming fear or panic or grief - or whatever – changes you forever at that moment. When you lose that one moment of breath, it breaks your heart. That is the only way I can explain it. Somehow that heart stopping moment alters who you are forever, and it’s so important to take care of yourself after a terrible shock.

I think the key to recovering or coping is to get help, or do research. Don’t suffer in silence. You may feel like you have gone crazy, but you are not alone, almost everyone says they go through that feeling. I read some of the CNN blog notes here and it’s so true, if you ignore it, it will get worse. So please, please, please don’t feel ashamed, be honest. BE HONEST! Please don’t try to go through it alone.

About 6 years after my accident I read a 3 part article that really helped me understand what I had been through.
http://www.watchtower.org/library/g/2001/8/22/article_02.htm

It has been over 12 years since my car accident. I have started to feel so much like my old mischievous self again. Of course nothing can ever be exactly the same as it was and I am okay with that. My personal faith and study of the Bible helped me to know that there is a beautiful hope for the future on this wonderful earth. Some people say they don’t believe in the bible, but when you asked them if they have ever read it or studied it they say no. For me it was the ultimate key to coping and gaining comfort.

I discovered the joy of photography and through it began to marvel at the wonders of life again. It has changed my life! For me, I view such beauty as God’s Living Masterpieces, which has helped me to feel alive again. I have written a couple of children’s stories and continue to write, which has helped me too. My goal has always been to take in beautiful thoughts, the most beautiful music, the most beautiful art, the most beautiful scenery and movies and books. The blessing of a crazy hilarious golden retriever who makes me smile on my most difficult days of physical pain. And especially by reaching out to help others I began to feel whole again. When we reach out to help or comfort others, we simply cannot focus on ourselves. I don’t care how depressing or bleak a situation seems, I realize that it helps me to help others in any way I possibly can. To get better we simply cannot close our eyes to the TV news or the suffering of others. We have to try to do something to help others. The bible states clearly: There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. And we are actually commanded to do to others what we wish others would do for us. Because that is the key to healing a broken spirit.

I guess the hardest thing in dealing with any trauma is being patient with ourselves. We have to patiently realize that we may have to take life one hour or minute at a time, and then one day at a time, until we feel better. My dad once said we can take a lesson from creation: The sun doesn’t shine everyday and we don’t have to either. Some days we may have to be patient with ourselves, allowing the gray moments and remembering that sun will shine again. However this is easier said than done after a terrible trauma. But it’s worth the patience and effort required to finally see a tiny glimmer of light at the end of that dark tunnel.

My heart goes out to anyone with PTSD, I’m so very sorry for what you are going through. I send them a gentle hug and wish to tell them to please hang in there. I hope and pray they soon see that flickering light at the end of their dark tunnel. Thank you again for this moment in time to express my personal feelings.

In much appreciation, Areti G.T. in Canada
I have two children in the US Army. My daughter served 1 tour in Afghanistan on the ground as an MP attached to an infantry unit. My son served 1 tour in Afghanistan and 1 tour in Iraq as a crew chief on BlackHawks. Both children have changed and both have PTSD. Neither is getting help for it through the Army. My daughter as a result of PTSD had a terrible incident happen to her that clearly demonstrated she is suffering real effects from her issues, but instead of getting her help she got an Article 15. The US Government only wants our kids for canon fodder, foget them helping them if they get hurt.
I am aware that ART OF LIVING Breathing/meditation course was offered for the Viginia tech students to cope with PTSD and depression. It was very beneficial. I also have seen Dr Gupta video on CNN about the same program.Taking this course can help.
For more information The web site is http://us.artofliving.org/human-values/university-campaign.html
and for the video is
www.artoflivingaz.org
My son served for 10 months in Iraq and was in the Infantry. He saw his best friend blown apart when the tank in which he was riding hit an IED. My son was in the tank directly behind it. This, I know, almost destroyed him. He refuses to talk about it, of course. Soon after returning to his home base, an incident occured which led to an "article 15" dismissal. He is now home; without a salary, without medical benefits and without the promised financial help with college. And if that weren't enough, he is completely demoralized and feels betrayed. Who wouldn't, after volunteering to serve our country, enduring horrifying situations in Iraq, not getting care which was clearly needed upon returning to the U.S.and then doing something so insignificant (which I can only compare to what someone might have done during a weekend party on campus or any other place where young people "party").....nothing close to breaking the law... and then just tossed out with such indignity with only 6 mos.left in his enlistment of four years....it's disgraceful. I would like to know more about this article 15, what's behind it and how anyone would even consider joining the military after learning how easy it is to receive this discharge. Needless to say, my son is suffering from PTSD and thus far has refused all help, even becoming extremely angry when the topic comes up. I'm so worried about him and wonder how many other soldiers this has happened to. Advice? Thank you, Proud Mom
I am a Sergeant in the Army, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. I have been to Iraq twice, and have had PTSD for about 3 years. I have told my leaders that I am worried that I will do something that I might regret. Nothing happens. I go to "Treatment," which consists of a brief session with a shrink who gives me perscription after perscription. No real treatment program is in place. My friend who also served in an Infantry unit has now been demoted to private (due to a BS article 15) and is being kicked out of the army. He has served more than one enlistment in the Army, and has risked everything for his brothers in arms, as have I. I feel so sad when I realize that right now, my brothers in arms are engaged in combat, and dying. I cant deal with it sometimes, and yet, a failed system is in place that will ruin me if I present any PTSD symptoms in front of the wrong people (high ranking people). A complete overhaul of the system is needed. Recently, the Army forced all its soldiers to be trained in how to recognize PTSD and MTBI in soldiers. Yet, when my friend went to his article 15, he was told to "Suck it up" when he told them he had PTSD. It is terrible to see such a hero, punished so severly by the military that he served so diligently, due to a condition imposed by war. War is our job, yet we are punished for it.
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