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Saturday, March 24. 2012
Other studies have found similar rates of PTSD in combat troops as compared to civilians experiencing severe stress in their lives, as well as among civilians experiencing terrorism attacks or among firemen.
An August 17 New York Times headline says a “Study Finds Fewer Cases of Post-Traumatic Stress in Vietnam Veterans.” The study, which contains important details not covered the NYT's article, appears in the August 18 journal Science, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Contrary to the widely reported figure that a third of Vietnam veterans have developed PTSD, this more careful study reports an occurrence -- still serious -- of 18.7% having temporary symptoms and 9.1% having lasting symptoms 10+ years after the end of the war. At the same time, the study points out “the majority of the veterans with high and very high MHM (military historical measure: “probable severity of exposure to war-zone stressors) did not develop war related PTSD.”
According to the New York Times article: “I'd like to think that this study would help settle the debate, and that both sides would see that this was good science,” said the report's lead author, Dr. Bruce Dohrenwend, a psychiatric researcher at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
“It's true we found a significant reduction in the lifetime prevalence of these disorders,” he said, “but on the other hand we also found that more than 9 percent had current pathology, which is a substantial number of people.”
Richard McNally, a psychologist at Harvard who is skeptical of the earlier estimate, agreed, saying that the new study confirmed his and others' suspicions. “It knocks the 30 percent number out of the box,” he said.
But, he added, the findings “should not be used as a justification for short-changing services that are needed to help veterans” of Iraq or Vietnam.
The new report is a reanalysis of a landmark 1988 study in which researchers tracked down 1,200 Vietnam veterans around the country and interviewed them.
The reanalysis of the data, plus additional investigations, are the result. Another finding in the study is a very low rate of compensation-seeking exaggeration.
Another notable result in the study itself is that:
"The trajectory for most veterans with war-related PTSD that causes substantial impairment is toward amelioration or complete remission. This tendency toward improvement is present even for (approximately) 10% of veterans who still had impairing current PTSD at follow-up; the impairment most of them showed by this time (10+ years after the end of the Vietnam war) was not severe. The functioning of the veterans who had developed war-related PTSD but who no longer met criteria for the disorder at follow-up differed little from that of veterans who did not develop war-related PTSD."
Like all good studies, the conclusion calls for “investigations of other factors that may contribute to initial resilience and psychological adjustment after traumatic war experiences.” This is an important and worthwhile path of study for all of us. The traits of resilience are fundamental to our health and success, as individuals and as a nation.
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Was planning on linking that old piece of yours later today.
Seems to be an emotional topic.
I wish you had posted the piece yesterday instead of me!
I forgot about my old piece before. Maybe it's my PTSD, or incipient Alzheimers, or "Fifth" of forgetfulness, or, brain-addledness from young sons, or, er, what was the subject?
It took me over 25 years, a good and loving wife, and the recognition that God knows better than me what I did and what I did it for, plus understanding that all men who return from combat have after-effects, to get over Vietnam in '68-'69.
I hope the fact that returning veterans today are treated with more love and respect helps ease their post-combat stress.
PS: I well recognize that men are not the only veterans at risk for PTSD--just the majority.
I seem to be suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder.
It's called humdrum, everyday, wow-that-car-almost-hit-me life.
I, too, find the "resilience and recovery" aspect of this issue the most compelling.
I recall a recent article about a volunteer organization in one of the western states [Montana?] that organizes groups of recently returned veterans who are afflicted with PTSD to take a week or ten days fishing the wonderful rivers of the state. The group provides the folks who join them with fishing guides, fishing equipment, a volunteer cook, and any other necessities to make the week a period of self rediscovery and healing. The idea attracted me, because when my first husband died of service connected disability, I found myself disturbed and feeling lost at the age of 25. I went to a psychiatrist to try to reason things out. For me, it was an ineffective solution, and I have since come to believe that some of us humans have to laboriously work these things out for ourselves. And many of us use the peaceful moments of fishing to give us personal insights that can help us cure ourselves. I didn't last long with that psychiatrist because he tried to hard to steer my recovery and direct my insights. I didn't want to just collapse on the couch and let him tell me what to do. I think many of our young military folks profit by the relaxing challenge of fishing to reach self revelations that will help them back to health.