Effects of War
As many of you may know our soldiers who have been fighting in Iraq and
Afghanistan are struggling with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress
disorder, anxiety and depression, and the rates of suicide is quite high. The
need for mental health treatment has overwhelmed the VA and governmental
agencies. In response to this need therapists in different parts of the country
are creating programs whereby a soldier or any member of the soldiers family
may receive pro-bono counseling. I am a participating therapist of The Soldiers
Project (www.thesoldiersproject.org) which has groups in several large cities.
If anyone knows of a soldier, or their family members, who are struggling with
the effects of the war please let them know of this resource.
Humans are not the only ones who develop PTSD after the trauma of war.
Gina, a German Shepherd, was in the news when she returned from Iraq after
having been a bomb-sniffing dog. When she returned this 2 year old once playful
dog showed symptoms of extreme anxiety, was afraid to enter rooms, and had
her tail tucked between her legs a good part of the time. As in humans, the part
of the brain that is meant to protect us, the fight-flee-freeze response, gets
overactivated. The upshot of this is that traumatic events can get imprinted in the
brain centers involved in memory and learning. This creates many of the
symptoms of PTSD (e.g. insomnia, hypervigilence, nightmares, panic attacks).
The good news is that with the appropriate treatment one can recover from PTSD.
(By the way, for a dog this would mean a quiet room, windows covered, with toys,
and possibly medication). Gina is recovering and we hope she is not sent back
for a new tour of duty.
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky is a terrific book about how
the body and mind is affected by stress. Dr. Sapolsky is a leader in the field of
“stress physiology” and writes with humor as well as helpful advice.
Year by year all is unclear, but day by day we find our way. (Unknown)
I would also like to thank all of you who trust me with your pain, fears and
hopes because you allow me to do the work I enjoy. Thank you also for the
referrals you have sent my way. Happy New Year.