Retired sergeant first class Sean Brack - who - with several symptoms of the stress, knew he needed help. Soon afterwards, Mr. Brack heard of an experimental therapy happening on post done by the STRONG STAR consortium and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
He soon realized he could overcome and move forward with his life.
When P.T.S.D. takes over, it's coming out of a dark place, that can take a long time. Sean's experience was just that.
“When I did feel something it would be rage.”
His quality of life was suffering. and medications were not helping.
“I couldn't keep my eyes open during the day but I couldn't sleep at night. it was like looking through a veil of gauze. Everything was dull. I just didn't care,” he said.
Sean was already in an altered sense of reality - so his rational thinking was in question.
One thing in particular he remembers - walking in the war zone in Afghanistan, and what it was like to walk among those who were killed and left for dead.
“Blood mixed with mud. You know flesh and it had this stickiness to it,” he remembers.
Fast forward to when he's out with his family, years later.
“I'm in a movie theater and my foot sticks to the ground on half dried soda and I'm right back there.”
Sean couldn’t stay in the theater and left.
As he deployed for the third and fourth time, the symptoms got worse. And as the symptoms continue the brain functions in different ways, chemicals fire at times they don't need to. And since no two experiences are the same, treatments must be tailored to the patient, so that a person's brain can get back to its normal chemical balance and new neuropathways can be formed.
Brack remembers his ‘moment,’ when he knew he needed help.
“When i started contemplating suicide. I could just let go of the wheel and let the truck hit whatever is in the road - right now. That's when I realized I knew I needed help.
Enter Dr. Alan Peterson, the director of the STRONG STAR Consortium and professor of psychiatry
The groundbreaking study Sean took part in, is an historic one – conducted on Fort Hood and featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association - Psychiatry (JAMA).
Peterson says, “it's a very big deal. it's arguably the most important treatment study that's ever been published related to P.T.S.D. in active duty military population.
It involves cognitive processing therapy - a type of talk-based treatment.
It has a track record of successfully treating post-traumatic stress disorder among civilians, but it hadn't yet been studied among active-duty combat veterans.
The method essentially desensitizes the person to an event - things like loud noises that sound like explosions, or a helicopter flying over takes someone back to the war instantly.
“Right now the most evidence we have is that this therapy works and it works well,” Peterson says.
Nearly 50% of soldiers recovered from P.T.S.D. within six weeks. The Department of Veterans Affairs already uses the treatment regularly for those who have left active duty.
Brack sums up his takeaway: “the simple act of telling someone is an amazing release. Literally like a weight off the chest. You realize I’m not the only one who feels this way – I’m not crazy for feeling this way.”
- Dr. Alan L. Peterson, Ph.D. is the director of the STRONG STAR consortium in San Antonio. He is also professor of psychiatry at UT Health at San Antonio, and co-author on the study.
- STRONG STAR is currently conducting more studies on P.T.S.D., and if you’re interested in being a part of them by calling STRONG STAR at Fort Hood: 254-288-1638 or by visiting www.STRONGSTAR.org/treatment.
- You can view the results of the study here.
- If you or someone you know could use help with P.T.S.D., or is interested in methods of treatment, the VA explains other methods of treatment: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp
If you have any questions about this story, please email Doug Currin: firstname.lastname@example.org