Tuesday, April 1, 2008


BY Abe, Kelli, PraetorOne, and Kyle


In the early 1800s they called it "exhaustion."  In World War I they called it "Soldiers Heart," "the Effort Syndrome," and finally "Shell Shock."  In World War II it was called "Combat Fatigue," only to undergo yet another transformation in 1952, when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) referred to it as "Stress Response Syndrome" caused by "gross stress reaction."  During the Vietnam conflict, in 1968, it was melded into a section about situational disorders.  And, as an interesting side note, it should be stated that those Vietnam Veterans who suffered from "Stress Response Syndrome" actually suffered from a preexisting condition if that condition lasted longer than six months--a slick way to avoid paying Veterans benefits. It wasn't until the 1980s that the third edition of the DSM (DSM III) used the current term of identification, and in 1994 the DSM IV categorized it as new type of stress disorder, still listed under the heading of Anxiety Disorders.

We are of course talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition which the overstretched military currently and conveniently believes can be cured by taking traumatized Iraq veterans and pushing them back into combat situations.  Translated into modern English, Military psychiatrists seem to have confused PTSD with phobic reactions and are foolishly encouraging young veterans to get back in the proverbial saddle again.

Imagine if you will, that you have eaten a bad hotdog and have become violently ill.  Imagine further, that you go to your doctor and that your doctor has told you to eat another hot dog.  Well, that's what is happening in Iraq as Military Doctors are using traumatized soldiers as psychological guinea pigs in a thinly disguised effort to maintain troop levels, and quite possibly to prevent Iraq War Veterans from cashing in on deserved benefits here at home.  In either event this so called treatment flies in the face of morality and rational thinking and it certainly makes a mockery out of the Hippocratic Oath.

To understand how foolish this controversial treatment really is we might want to take a look at the highly varied symptoms of  the beast that we refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

*intrusive memories about the traumatic event or events

*bad dreams about the traumatic event

*flashbacks or a sense of reliving the event

*feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma

*physiological symptoms such as a pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, and profuse sweating

*The patient may feel terrified and disorientated, trying to avoid feelings or conversations which might remind him of the event.  There may be a loss of memory regarding important parts of the traumatic event and there may be a loss of interest in activities and in life in general.  The patient may feel detached or estranged from other people or may feel emotionally numb towards people, including loved ones.

*The patient may feel increased arousal and anxiety, experiencing sleep difficulties, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hyper-vigilance (being constantly on guard).  The patient may be jumpy and experience an exaggerated startle response.

Over time the patient may develop depression, substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate, depression.  Patients often avoid treatment because they are afraid others will be judgmental.  And in the military this is not a small concern, because the culture of silence surrounding mental disorders can only be described as extreme,  Especially when one considers the fact that there are established methods of treatment.

Early treatment, before the symptoms worsen, is important.  The effects on friends and families can be devastating to say the least, and one of the areas on which treatment will focus is on the improvement of family life.  One needs to remember that individuals and families alike will suffer as the patient deteriorates.  This is not to blame the patient, but the disorder itself. Unless someone has had some sort of contact with this disorder one really can't understand the dynamics involved, the damage that it can do.  Moreover, PTSD can cause physical conditions to deteriorate as physiological symptoms grow more intense:  heart conditions, ulcers, ad infinitum.

Patients and loved ones need to understand that PTSD is not weakness nor a lapse in morality.  Actually it is a sign that the individual is trying, albeit rather desperately, to cope with the situation, with the original trauma. 

Treatment is designed to help the victim deal with the trauma as opposed to avoiding it.  Thoughts and feelings pertaining to the trauma are explored; the victim is encouraged to work through the feelings of guilt, self-blame, and mistrust which surround the trauma and the ensuing PTSD.  Intrusive memories are dealt with, the patient being taught how to better control those memories.  At the same time family issues are discussed and dealt with.

One therapy is Exposure Therapy in which the patient is gradually exposed to the thoughts and situations which trigger memories of the original traumatic event. Eventually the patient is encouraged to face situations which may resemble (the opportune word being resemble) the original traumatic event.  Cognitive Restructuring is another means of therapy in which the patient is encouraged to recognize and identify the disturbing thought patterns surrounding the
original trauma.  In this form of therapy the patient is taught to differentiate between distorted and irrational perceptions and more balanced, rational perceptions.

And those are only two out of many accepted therapies.  But now look out.  Here come George W. Bush and the Bush Military and they have a whole new take on the situation.  Thanks in part to a handful of renegades within the mental health care profession--most of which are tied to the United States military--we have now reached the point where where Military psychiatrists want to take traumatized soldiers and push them back into the situation which caused the trauma in the first place.  As we stated above this flies in the face of both, basic morality and the Hippocratic Oath.  In the standard, accepted therapies that we discussed above the object is to prevent future harm, there is only a minimal danger of additional mental or physical harm.  That cannot be said about taking a traumatized soldier and sending him back into combat.  There is desensitization and then there is the kind of congenital imbecility which is being promoted by that handful of renegade psychiatrists et al as they place more lives and limbs in danger.

So why would the United States military devise such a foolish method of treatment.  First and foremost we suspect that it has more to do with a desperate need for troops than it does with legitimate medical and psychological needs.  It is no secret that the United States Military is already spread too thin and that it can't afford to lose many more soldiers.  Ergo, it has devised a way to keep troops on the battlefield, mental health be damned.

Secondly, we also suspect a financial motivation.  In 2005 the Republican dominated government in Washington began to question the legitimacy of disability claims based on PTSD.
In 2004, 215,871 vets received PTSD benefit payments at a cost of $4.3 billion.  In 1999 the figure stood at $1.17 billion, a jump in five years of more than 150 percent and that included very few of the veterans, the troops, who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Most of the increase had come from Vietnam veterans who wanted to free themselves of the devastating effects of PTSD.  True to form the Republicans decided that it might be a good time to start cutting benefits based on PTSD claims.  The result was a messy political argument in which the Republicans claimed that some veterans were faking their symptoms just to maintain their benefits.  To substantiate this Loony Tunes argument, the Republicans claimed that extending benefits to Vietnam Era vets for such a long period of time would somehow tell Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan that PTSD was a hopeless disorder that would continue without end:  which, when you think about it is a little like saying someone would want to drink a vial of poison and risk his or her life just so they can enjoy the trip to and stay in the hospital.  It does happen from time to time--you might find the rare person who would risk life and limb for the sheer joy of receiving medical treatment-- but such cases are rare and we suspect that those cases in which a rare individual would fake PTSD for benefits are also very, VERY rare.  Oh, they like the trappings of war.  They enjoy the impassioned political speeches, the nationalism, the flag waving and cheers which initially get them elected as they promote whatever intervention they believe will buy them political points, but when it comes to actually helping the kids who are going to do the actual suffering, bleeding, and dying, our GOP (Greedy Old Prigs) the upper class government officials show an almost gleeful contempt for the lower and lower middle class kids who sign up to do the GOP's dirty work.   In addition we doubt if the Republican bean counters have ever given two whoops in hell about any vet once he or she had put in his or her required time.  And today we can't even say that--not in a day of extended tours and little or no rest for weary, exhausted troops.  Indeed, today the Republicans, George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney in particular, see troops as little more than disposable toy soldiers.  They would just as soon see them come home in body bags than pay them for disabilities sustained while they were fighting in their ill-conceived war of choice. Not that Bush is especially interested in attending funerals, nor in  allowing the public to see flag-draped coffins, much less body bags.  To make the situation even worse the press has served as a pro-Bush cheering section in this regard.  We've all see it.  The stereotypical "news story" (think propaganda) about the severely wounded veteran who is eager to get back to Iraq.  This, of course serves less as legitimate news (at the very best it's a feel good story) and more as propaganda to encourage wounded veterans to get back into action.   The press COULD show more news stories about veterans who have been successfully treated and who have adjusted very well without putting their lives in jeopardy all over again, but they don't do that.  The media are more interested in promoting the image of the strong-willed Marine or Soldier who goes back into the military with a prosthetic leg or arm.  Indeed, a special on ABC a few years ago went so far as to feature soldiers with PTSD who allowed themselves to be manipulated by these semi-professional psychiatrists (read quacks) into going back into combat.  Naturally, the ones who didn't were portrayed as weak and self-destructive.  The message could not have been more devastating to PTSD sufferers who may already felt weak, guilty, and depressed because of their symptoms.  And if the truth is to be told, stories such as these only reinforce the damaging mythology that has surrounded all types of mental illness in the past.  Why do the words archaic and hackneyed come to mind?

But we seem to have digressed.  In closing we shall only add that the pseudo-scientific approach to therapy which takes traumatized troops and places them back in jeopardy is just another manifestation of the fact that the Bush Administration didn't plan this war properly from the get go.  Instead of concentrating on the war against terror the Bush Administration dropped the ball and attacked Iraq, distracting from a more crucial and relevant effort in Afghanistan.  Obsessed over Iraq and the man who "threatened to kill (his) daddy," Bush assumed that the United States could defeat any enemy on the battlefield.  It went in with an insufficient number of troops to fight a war which didn't have to be fought in the first place and ever since it has been recycling combat weary troops, knowing full well that it blew it but remaining too cocksure and too politically opportunistic to admit the same to the public.  So now the Administration has ruined the military, spread it so thin that it can't afford to lose a single man or woman.  Is it any wonder that we're sending traumatized soldiers back into battle?



By Shankar Vedantam
27 December, 2005

Noli nothis permittere te terere
Jolan Tru
Brandon Alexander Geraghty-MacKenzie

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