No Easy Cure for PTSD
David J. Morris, a former Marine infantry officer, has suffered with PTSD for years. In a fascinating first-hand account of his experience, which appears on The New York Times‘s website, he writes eloquently about his negative experiences with one VA’s most popular treatments for PTSD, prolonged exposure therapy. After one month of treatment, Morris began to have problems.
If you have members suffering from PTSD following a traumatic incident, they might find this article interesting. You can also pass it along to the person in your agency, if there is one, who is involved with officer-wellness programs.
Morris has just written a book, The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, about his experiences trying to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.Here are some excerpts from his Times piece that we found particularly interesting:
“There are two widely used treatments for PTSD at the V.A. One is called cognitive processing therapy. The other is prolonged exposure therapy, the effectiveness of which the V.A. heavily promotes. After explaining my symptoms to the intake coordinator, I was told that prolonged exposure was the best therapy for me. He said that the treatment worked for about 85 percent of people (“some pretty darn high odds if you ask me”).
“The promise of prolonged exposure is that your response to your trauma can be unlearned by telling the story of it over and over again. The patient is asked to close his eyes, put himself back in the moment of maximum terror and recount the details of what happened. According to the theory, the more often the story is told in the safety of the therapy room, the more the memory of the event will be detoxified, stripped of its traumatic charge and transformed into something resembling a normal memory.
“The process sounded like all my dealings with the V.A.: Before you could find any relief, you had to traverse a little bit of hell.
“When I think back on that time, the word that comes to mind is ‘nausea.’ I felt sick inside, the blood hot in my veins. Never a good sleeper, I became an insomniac of the highest order. I couldn’t read, let alone write. I laced up my sneakers and went for a run around my neighborhood, hoping for release in some roadwork; after a couple of blocks, my calves seized up. It was like my body was at war with itself. One day, my cellphone failed to dial out and I stabbed it repeatedly with a stainless steel knife until I bent the blade 90 degrees.”