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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Wever: PTSD more dehabilitating than many think

Guest columnist


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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be one of the more debilitating mental health disorders. According to a study conducted in the Netherlands, the effect of PTSD is equivalent to the burden of paraplegia. Many people are surprised by that information: The impact of PTSD on a person’s daily functioning is comparable to the disability of a person who has lost the use of both of his/her legs.

Such an equivalency certainly solidifies the need for mental health treatment for those diagnosed with PTSD. But many people who meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD do not seek or receive treatment. By comparison, it is highly unlikely an individual who does not have the use of his/her legs would avoid treatment and rehabilitation.

The diagnostic criteria identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes eight criterion categories, which are summarized here. Please note this list is not inclusive of all criterion necessary for a diagnosis of PTSD. A diagnostic impression of PTSD must be made by a licensed mental health professional or psychiatrist.

♦ Exposure to a traumatic event.

♦ Persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event.

♦ Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings and reminders of the traumatic event.

♦ Development of persistent negative thoughts and feelings after the traumatic event.

♦ Irritability and/or negative changes in behavior that began or worsened after the traumatic event.

♦ Duration of symptoms for more than one month.

♦ Symptoms cause significant impairment in social and/or occupational functioning.

♦ Disturbance is not due to medication, substance use or other illness.

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication conducted between February 2001 and April 2003 estimated the lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans to be 6.8 percent — seven in 100 adults. Among adolescents, based on data from the National Survey of Adolescents, the six-month prevalence was estimated to be 3.7 percent for boys — four in 100 boys — and 6.3 percent for girls — 6 in 100 girls.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study conducted between November 1986 and February 1988 estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among Vietnam veterans was 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women, which is significantly higher than the general population. By contrast, the prevalence of PTSD in Gulf War Veterans was estimated to be 10.1 percent.

In 2008, the RAND Corp., Center for Military Health Policy Research, published a population-based study that examined the prevalence of PTSD among previously deployed Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Afghanistan and Iraq) service members and found the prevalence of current PTSD in these service members was 13.8 percent.

Research also has demonstrated that the most effective treatments for PTSD combine mental health counseling and psychiatric medication management. Therapies that have been identified as most helpful for people diagnosed with PTSD (with the lowest rates of dropout from treatment) are cognitive therapy, EMDR and clinical hypnosis.

Recovery from PTSD varies among individuals; some see a reduction of symptoms while others are able to obtain a complete remission of symptoms. However, the primary goal of treatment is to stabilize the individual so that daily functioning no longer is disrupted by the traumatic experience.

For more information on PTSD, visit the National Institute of Mental Health website:, for information about the benefits of clinical hypnosis, visit

Dawn Wever is a licensed mental health counselor and has worked in the Behavioral Health Care industry for six years. She has appeared at conferences on issues related to mental health and substance abuse and provides mental health trainings for professionals. Additional resources and information can be found on her website at

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