Nov 11, 2010 11:02 AM by Hoyt Harris

P T S D : Invisible but Real

People who live through extraordinary events have a hard time opening up about it. Therapist Marc D'Aunoy says this is the underlying factor that soldiers suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have in common.

D'Aunoy says the inability to "talk about it" is a trait that runs through society at large.

"I think there's something fundamental about all people," D'Aunoy says, "that we just we don't think people understand us anyway."

D'Aunoy, a licensed family and marriage therapist, says when an extraordinary and traumatic event is added to that basic human trait, the result can be P.T.S.D.

An event like war is one of the most extraordinary events anyone can live through.

"To have something extraordinary happen to you that has pain, confusion, that they don't even understand themselves," he says, "it's hard for them to believe someone else could really understand.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder afflicts as many as 25 percent of troops returning from the Middle East.

So far, that translates to 300,000 men and women who may suffer from various levels of P.T.S.D.

And what are the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

D'Aunoy says the symptoms include trouble sleeping, irritability and angry outbursts.

The top three categories of P.T.S.D. break down like this:

1)REEXPERIENCING THE EVENT, including flashbacks, intrusive memories and nighmares.

2)EMOTIONAL NUMBING. This symptom sees the patient "detach" from the people around him. He or she cannot "connect" with others.

3)HYPERVIGILANCE. This includes signs of irritability; that is, being "on-guard" or on constant "Red Alert." Also, sleep disturbances and anger problems.

To get beyond P.T.S.D., D'Aunoy says soldiers must "talk" about their experience, not keep it bottled up inside. But that's the great irony about P.T.S.D. Whether it's caused by war, September 11 or the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, people with P.T.S.D. don't WANT to talk about it.

"They're gonna be resistant to talk about their experience in combat," he says. "They personally don't want to relive the pain."

D'Aunoy says like most of us in our everyday lives, soldiers do not want to face the pain.

"Our society doesn't like pain. We don't like facing pain," he says. "We have a pill for every kind of pain you can imagine. So we as a society don't do a good job really of embracing the pain of life."

To help soldiers make a smoother transition back into civilian life, D'Aunoy says families should give the returning soldier a purpose that will lead to a sense of belonging.

"Give them a role back into the family," he says. "If it's a husband, get him back involved doing homework if they have children."

Therapy can help. A form of therapy showing great success in treating the invisible--but very real--problems of P.T.S.D. is something called Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. In it, horses become 15-hundred pound "therapists," helping the soldier "get out of" himself, and back into the mainstream of life.

More on that Thursday night, November 11, on Acadiana's NewsChannel at 10 O'clock.




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