In the past couple of decades, as advances in psychiatry persist and society attitude towards mental health widens, awareness about Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD has increased. Although understanding and awareness are at higher levels than ever, many suffering veterans still find it difficult to seek psychiatric attention for a myriad of reasons. According to Mental Health First Aid, “30 percent of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition requiring treatment — approximately 730,000 men and women, with many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.” When veterans return from duty, they experience isolation, believing there is no support for them in their communities.
Feelings of isolation exacerbate the conditions plaguing these soldiers. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severely mentally disabling condition harassing the sufferer at all moments of the day without warning. Many veterans experience, what the Mayo Clinic describes as, intrusive memories. These are “recurring, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.” Veterans may find it difficult to carry on with their daily civilian lives as these memories resurface, forcing them for moments at a time to relive emotionally taxing flashbacks. Understandably, as a result, many of these patients try to suppress these memories by not talking about or actively thinking about what has happened to them.
This internal battle further isolates the veteran patient as the process becomes incredibly introspective, which affects the veteran’s view of themselves and inhibits their ability to experience positive emotions. This isolation affects the patient in several spheres of their life, namely the inability to form and maintain close relationships. People who experience PTSD may also undergo feeling of emotional “numbness” and hopelessness about the future. Conversely, outbursts or aggressive behavior are commonly observed as are trouble concentrating and feelings of guilt and shame.
These experiences make veterans suffering with PTSD highly susceptible to substance abuse. Depression and substance abuse are incredibly linked, with some sources saying that nearly 50 percent of people with depression have also struggled with substance abuse. Incidence of alcohol abuse amongst military personal is higher than that in the civilian population. “Almost half of active duty service members (47 percent) reported binge drinking.”
For these reasons, treatment for PTSD must follow a dual diagnosis approach. Founded by Dr. Khal El-Yousef 25 years ago, the dual diagnosis postulates that the best treatment for individuals suffering from intertwined and complex conditions must undergo both counseling and medical therapy. Practicing at Fairwinds Treatment Facility, Dr. El-Yousef has made Fairwinds into one of the top treatment centers in Florida.Our therapy for patients must also include high family involvement. Research shows that recovery from substance abuse is highly effective when family is part of the counseling process.