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PTSD update and information for veterans

SUN Columnist

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something terrible and scary that someone sees, hears about or that happens to the person, such as:

• Combat exposure/military sexual trauma.

• Child sexual or physical abuse.

• Terrorist attack.

• Sexual or physical assault.

• Serious accidents, like a car wreck.

• Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake.

During a traumatic event, the person thinks their life or others’ lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or feel that they have no control over what is happening around them. Most people have some stress-related reactions after a traumatic event; but, not everyone gets PTSD. If these reactions don’t go away over time and they disrupt life, then the person may have PTSD. Most people who go through a trauma have some stress-related symptoms at the beginning. Only some will develop PTSD over time. It isn’t clear why some people develop PTSD and others don’t. Whether or not a person gets PTSD depends on many things:

• How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted.

• If the person was injured or lost someone important to him or her.

• How close the person was to the event.

• How strong the person’s reaction was.

• How much the person felt in control of events.

• How much help and support the person got after the event.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause the person great distress, or interfere with work or home life, the person might have PTSD. There are four types of symptoms of PTSD:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). The person may have bad memories or nightmares and may even feel like he or she is going through the event again. This is called a flashback.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. The person may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. The person may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

3. Feeling numb. The person may find it hard to express his or her feelings or may not be interested in activities he or she used to enjoy. This is another way to avoid memories.

4). Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). The person may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal.

People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

• Feelings of hopelessness, shame or despair.

• Depression or anxiety.

• Drinking or drug problems.

• Physical symptoms or chronic pain.

• Employment problems.

• Relationship problems, including divorce.

In many cases, treatments for PTSD will also help these other problems, because they are often related. The coping skills learned in treatment can work for both PTSD and these related problems. There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, or counseling, involves meeting with a therapist. There are different types of psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment for PTSD. There are two different types of CBT for PTSD that are broadly offered at VA. One type is Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where patients learn skills to understand how trauma changed their thoughts and feelings. Another type is Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy where patients talk about their trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. They also go to places that are safe, but that they have been staying away from because they are related to the trauma. Medications can be effective, too. A type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD. Another medication called Prazosin has been found to be helpful in decreasing nightmares related to the trauma. Benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics should generally be avoided for PTSD treatment because they do not treat the core PTSD symptoms. More information about PTSD can be found at www.ptsd.va.gov/public/index.asp.

For all veterans

Please notify this office when you receive letters or correspondence from the VA, especially requests for additional information or rating/claim decisions. I have been told I will not receive all notifications from the VA, via the CDVA, as your advocate. If you have questions regarding any VA paperwork you have received, contact me at the office.

Information

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center, on Hot Springs Blvd.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4, p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday, 10 a.m., Quality Inn.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (veterans): every Thursday, 9 a.m., Crossroads Church, 1044 Park Ave.

Contacts

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers text 838255.free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

This story was posted on May 2, 2013.