Our military personnel are perennial icons of bravery, courage, and sacrifice. These brave men and women sign on to serve their country in myriad ways around the world in our nation’s best interests, but sometimes their tours of service may leave them emotionally scarred. Combat experiences are often very traumatic, resulting in deep emotional wounds that result in depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The suffering can be so intense that the military veterans are also at risk of developing comorbid substance use disorders with the mental health disorder.
The past twenty years has, as a result of these escalating psychiatric struggles among veterans, resulted in higher and higher suicide rates. The Veteran’s Administration reports that about 20 vets a day take their own lives, with military personnel representing 14% of all adult suicide deaths in the country. The most startling data revolved around younger veterans, between the ages of 18-34. In this age group suicide rates jumped 10% between 2015 and 2016, although the largest number of suicides were among vets aged 55 or older.
While laudable that the Veteran Affairs Committee is aggressively seeking to escalate suicide prevention measures among military personnel, for those who have been deployed and discharged there is a great need for psychiatric help. Finding a depression and PTSD psychiatrist for veterans that can help guide these heroes toward emotional stability and wellness is critical.
Veterans and PTSD
It is estimated that between 10%-20% of veterans develop PTSD following, or during, their tour of duty. The rates of PTSD among the general population hover around 3.5%, according to statistics provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, substantially lower than among military personnel. This might be explained by the intensity of the traumatic events related to combat, including high stress levels, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault, fear, and a preexisting mental health disorder prior to joining the military.
Symptoms of PTSD last more than one month and might include:
- Intrusive thoughts and memories about the traumatic event(s)
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Easily startled
- Emotional numbness
- Sleep disturbances
- Reliving the trauma
- Anger, aggressive behavior
- Avoiding people, places, or situations that trigger memories or emotions
- Substance abuse
Veterans and Depression
Among our military personnel, major depressive disorder is very common. Depression is, in fact, the most common mental health disorder among veterans. Depression may be a stand-alone disorder, or may be comorbid with PTSD and/or substance use disorders. In fact, a study in 2014 by JAMA found depression rates among veterans to be five times higher than civilians. Multiple deployments that keep military members away from their families for extended periods, deaths of friends due to combat-related injuries, and concussions and traumatic brain injuries may account for the higher rates of depression in the military.
Symptoms of depression that last more than two weeks might include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Social isolation
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Change in appetite resulting in weight gain or loss
- Feelings of guilt, self-hatred, or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and formerly enjoyed activities
- Trouble concentrating
- Suicidal ideation
Depression and PTSD Psychiatrist for Veterans
A depression and PTSD psychiatrist for veterans will understand the unique features of these mental health disorders among this cohort, as compared with the general population. Using a combination of therapies to address the unique disorder or co-occurring disorders, the psychiatrist can help veterans manage symptoms and change thought patterns. These treatment elements include:
- Psychotherapy. The psychiatrist or licensed psychotherapist will engage in one-on-one conversations with the veteran, providing a safe and supportive environment for sharing the traumas or emotionally painful events that have resulted in PTSD and/or depression. The therapist will guide them through these painful memories and help them process the emotions associated with them.
- Group therapy. Small group sessions with others struggling with the same disorders provides the important peer support piece of treatment.
- Medication. Antidepressants may be prescribed to help rebalance neurotransmitters that may be contributing to the mental health disorder.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS uses electro-magnetic energy to stimulate neurons in the left prefrontal cortex where mood and emotions are regulated.
- Eye movement desensitization processing (EMDR). A form of exposure therapy, the procedure involves the patient following the doctor’s finger or other object in a back and forth motion while discussing the trauma.
Anew Era Psychiatry Depression and PTSD Psychiatrist for Veterans
Anew Era Psychiatry is a comprehensive psychiatric services provider serving Orange County, California. Offering a full spectrum of treatment elements, the depression and PTSD psychiatrist for veterans individualizes treatment, creating a tailored approach that addresses each veteran’s unique mental health needs. Providing psychotherapy, antidepressant therapy, EMDR, and TMS, Anew Era Psychiatry is at the forefront of the most effective, modern treatment modalities for depression and PTSD treatment. For more information, please contact Anew Era Psychiatry today at (949) 577-6853.