NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It is one of the great unseen wounds many combat veterans deal with, a wound with no scar but a lasting effect.
It’s PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. For years, it was the great undiagnosed, denied, and stigmatized effect of war.
In the Civil War, the malady was known as soldier’s heart. In World War I, it was referred to as shell shock. In World War II and Vietnam, it was called battle fatigue.
It was during the first Gulf War that the symptoms received a new name– post-traumatic stress disorder.
“A lot of people around the country are recognizing that it is a condition of combat, but it is not a condition of combat. It is a condition of trauma,” explained Dr. John Jackson, who heads the PTSD treatment department at the Nashville veterans hospital.
And combat is trauma. Dr. Jackson says post-traumatic stress disorder has been a part of combat since war existed.
“PTSD is a sneaky disease. The change occurs over time, and a lot of folks with it don’t recognize it, and they feel like people are treating them differently, and they don’t realize it is because they are acting differently,” he explained to News 2.
And the numbers are staggering. According to the National Center for PTSD, a third of all who served in Vietnam suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Twelve percent of those who served in the first Gulf War and between 11 to 20 percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will develop PTSD.
Dr. Jackson says there are signs to look for.
“We see a lot of loss of family, we see a lot of use of substance, alcohol and drugs and things like that we worry about. It is kind of difficult to work,” he said.
The good news is that new protocols for treating PTSD work. Dr. Jackson says treatment is beyond a life of mood-altering drugs.
“But the best treatment for PTSD really is therapy. I tell all of my patients we are going to get you on some meds, and think of that as the cast, and the therapy is going to be the healing. We are going to cut the cast off if we get you better,” he told News 2. “I don’t want someone on medication the rest of their life if we can avoid it.”
Dr. Jackson says there should be no shame; PTSD is an illness to be recognized, diagnosed and treated successfully.
“We get people in here, we work hard, and we see a lot of improvement. Whatever we do, the plea here is if you are watching this with PTSD or with a family member, get them into the VA,” he added.Click here for more on the Nashville VA hospital.