Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 10, 2013

Editorial: Military, medical profession need new thinking on PTSD

Linda Fletcher thinks it’s time to start thinking differently about post-traumatic stress disorder — how it is defined, diagnosed and treated. Given the huge numbers of military veterans suffering the horrors of PTSD and the limited success the medical profession has had dealing with its debilitating symptoms, the sooner the better.

Fletcher, who now lives in Long Lake Township, is uniquely qualified to talk about PTSD. She is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and a 22-year veteran of the Army Nurse Corps. Her father was a career Army officer who, she believes, suffered from PTSD most of his adult life after his combat experiences in Italy in WWII, where he was awarded the Silver Star.

Fletcher’s cocerned about the long-term effects PTSD will have on veterans, their families and society.

“What we are doing doesn’t work,” she said. “ We’re still treating people from World War II and Vietnam. It’s incredibly expensive and there is a lot of collateral damage — drug and alcohol abuse, inability to hold a job, homelessness, suicide, fractured homes. ... It’s a huge problem and it’s just getting bigger.”

PTSD is triggered by a terrifying and/or tragic event — war, combat, catastrophe and abuse of all kinds. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety. Timely diagnosis and effective treatment have become a major national concern.

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD and 50 percent of those do not seek treatment.

Fletcher, who will teach a two-session Northwestern Michigan College extended education class on the issue later this month, thinks the current medical definition of PTSD fails to cover the full range of dissociative symptoms veterans suffer. It also does not address psychological/spiritual symptoms such as deep shame, guilt and rage that can come out of combat experiences.

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