We offer experienced and specialized cares for veterans , LEOs, firefighters, and other first responders experience a group of mental health conditions that tend to disproportionately affect these populations. These conditions may include posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, among other issues. Due to the traumatic environment in which these warriors serve, they suffer disproportionately. We address these concerns with evidenced based therapy.
You may have experienced the following…
1. Reliving the event
Repeatedly experiencing the event in flashbacks
Having intrusive, repeated, and upsetting memories of the event
Regularly having nightmares about the event
Having intense and discomforting reactions to objects or situations that remind you of the event
Staying away from people, places, or even thoughts that remind you of the event
Feelings of detachment
Loss of interest in everyday activities
Being emotionally guarded
Feelings of hopelessness
Constantly scanning the surroundings for any signs of danger
Being easily startled
Erratic sleep patterns
4. Negative thoughts, moods, or feelings
Feeling guilty about the event
Criticizing or blaming other individuals for the event
Loss of interest in activities and people
American combat veterans have a much higher prevalence of PTSD than American civilians. Between 11-20% of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) experience posttraumatic stress in a given year. Approximately 12% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans and 15% of Vietnam veterans are affected by PTSD on an annual basis. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD for Vietnam veterans is 30%.
Military personnel and first responders are at higher risk for developing posttraumatic stress because they are intimately involved in incidents that may be frightening, horrifying, and at times, life-threatening. One emotionally overwhelming incident may be enough for PTSD to develop, however, warriors often suffer prolonged and repeated exposure to traumatic events.
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY IN VETERANS AND FIRST RESPONDERS
Mental health conditions that adversely affect mood, such as depression and anxiety, are also prevalent among military veterans—and veterans may experience these issues for many different reasons. Factors such as poor health (physical and mental), unemployment, and financial difficulties can contribute to negative thoughts and moods.
Upon returning home, some veterans report feeling disconnected from family members and friends. The belief that no one is able to relate to their experiences or offer meaningful emotional support can prompt service members to bottle up their feelings or even seek social isolation. Such actions though, may only serve to exacerbate the situation.
There are other factors which may also play a role in developing negative thought patterns. For example, the grief of losing one’s friends during combat, coupled with feelings of survivor’s guilt can lead to the development of depression and anxiety if they are not effectively treated.
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) AND VETERANS
Traumatic brain injury is currently one of the most discussed topics in the medical and mental health communities, as many veterans have returned home with the symptoms of the condition. It has even been called a “signature injury” of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Traumatic brain injury may be caused by a blow to the head, the head striking an object, or by an explosion in close proximity.
People who experience a brain injury may become confused, disoriented, experience slow or delayed thinking, and may even slip into a coma. Memory loss of events preceding and immediately following the injury is also common. Other symptoms associated with TBI are headaches, dizziness, and difficulty paying attention. In some cases, traumatic brain injury can result in physical deficits, behavioral changes, emotional deficiencies, and loss of cognitive ability.
In the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, 78% of all combat injuries are caused by explosive munitions. Mild TBI or concussion is one of the most prevalent combat injuries, affecting roughly 15% of all active military combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to the devastating effect of roadside bombs in these countries, the ability to effectively treat traumatic brain injury is of great importance in veteran care.
OTHER MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES EXPERIENCED BY VETERANS
While posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury are at the forefront of most people’s minds when it comes to veteran care, there are other mental health conditions that warrant attention. These include:
Drug and alcohol abuse
In traumatic or unusually stressful circumstances, people may perpetrate, fail to prevent, or witness events that contradict deeply held moral beliefs and expectations
When someone does something that goes against their beliefs this is often referred to as an act of commission and when they fail to do something in line with their beliefs that is often referred to as an act of omission. Individuals may also experience betrayal from leadership, others in positions of power or peers that can result in adverse outcomes
Moral injury is the distressing psychological, behavioral, social, and sometimes spiritual aftermath of exposure to such events A moral injury can occur in response to acting or witnessing behaviors that go against an individual’s values and moral beliefs.
In order for moral injury to occur, the individual must feel like a transgression occurred and that they or someone else crossed a line with respect to their moral beliefs. Guilt, shame, disgust and anger are some of the hallmark reactions of moral injury (e.g., 4). Guilt involves feeling distress and remorse regarding the morally injurious event (e.g., “I did something bad.”). Shame is when the belief about the event generalizes to the whole self (e.g., “I am bad because of what I did.”) .Disgust may occur as a response to memories of an act of perpetration, and anger may occur in response to a loss or feeling betrayed.. Another hallmark reaction to moral injury is an inability to self-forgive, and consequently engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors (e.g., feeling link you don’t deserve to succeed at work or relationships).
Moral injury also typically has an impact on an individual’s spirituality . For example, an individual with moral injury may have difficulty understanding how one’s beliefs and relationship with a Higher Power can be true given the horrific event the person experienced, leading to uncertainty about previously held spiritual beliefs.
THERAPY FOR MILITARY AND FIRST RESPONDER ISSUES
For veterans experiencing posttraumatic stress, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and mood-stabilizing drugs may be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist. These medications can address depression and anxiety issues, reduce irritability, improve sleep patterns, and help to ease nightmares or intrusive thoughts.
While the use of mood-influencing medications is particularly common in treating depression and anxiety, talk therapies can also be very beneficial. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and interpersonal therapy (IPT) can help affected veterans reduce emotional pain and reestablish positive social relationships. Certain types of therapies–such as cognitive processing therapy (CPT) or prolonged exposure therapy (PE)–may also be used to promote positive thought patterns and behaviors in veterans experiencing mental health issues. Medical guidelines strongly recommend both CBT and PE for the treatment of posttraumatic stress. We also offer Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing as a treatment option.
Veterans with traumatic brain injury may experience a variety of mental health issues. Different therapeutic strategies may be applied, depending on which areas of a person’s functioning are affected. Common treatments for TBIs include rehabilitation therapies (for example, speech-language therapy), medication, assistive devices, and learning strategies to address cognitive, emotional, and behavioral deficits.
SUPPORT AND THERAPY FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
Military life and deployment can take a toll on each member in the family system. Children and teenagers may become irritable or rebellious, and the parent at home may have to cope with the increased burden of caring for the family alone on a daily basis. Deployment can lead family members to feel anxious, alone, or unsupported. Military families also have to face the possibility that the deployed family member may return seriously injured or may not return at all. A family who is out of touch with extended family members or the military community may be more likely to experience increased stress during this period.
While happiness and relief may often be experienced when a deployed family member returns home, initial joy might give way to feelings of frustration as issues associated with reintegration arise. The returning parent may have experienced personality changes or developed mental or physical heath concerns, children may have been born or reached a different stage of development, and marital bonds may have weakened. The need to readjust to new roles within the family system may lead to increased tension between family members.
If you, or a loved one, is part of the Warrior class and is struggling, we can help. We offer proven and effective treatments specifically for you.