Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Ed. Note: To coincide with Independence Day celebrations, we’re offering an educational 4-part series “Saluting our Soldiers.” We’re taking a closer look at the mental health issues facing today’s soldiers and veterans—and sharing the latest research news affecting military personnel.

Overview: A recent analysis found that the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rate among troops serving in Iraq may be as high as 35%. Even more conservative estimates, which cite a 20% PTSD rate, are sobering. Common symptoms include trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling detached from people, apathy, irritability, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, nightmares, or inability to concentrate, but they vary depending on the person and the trauma. It can take weeks, months, or even years for PTSD to appear following a traumatic event or period.

Is there a cure? Most experts agree that there is no “cure” for PTSD—but rather, that a person suffering from PTSD can utilize different strategies to manage the symptoms of the disorder. Because everyone’s condition is unique, a strategy that may help one person may be ineffective in another. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavorial therapy (CBT) are two of the best proven strategies currently employed to ameliorate the day-to-day symptoms of PTSD. Although a high percentage of people with PTSD take medications for their symptoms, the National Academies recently reported that there is little evidence of their efficacy in treating the disorder.

Research Studies: Learn about the latest research on treating PTSD in wounded warriors.

  • Click here to read about the lack of mental health treatment for veterans with PTSD.
  • Click here to see which parts of the brain are physically changed in people suffering from PTSD.
  • Click here to read an article about why researchers believe that adding smells to virtual reality therapy might help with PTSD.

Science Spotlight: When it comes to a complex problem like treating PTSD, innovative thinking is a key to improving outcomes.

Posit Science advisor Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo is bringing futuristic ideas for PTSD treatment into practice. Dr. Rizzo’s lab has adapted a combat video game into an immersive 360-degree virtual reality experience that’s being used as an effective treatment for PTSD in returning veterans. Learn more about this pioneering research.