15 August 2013 PTSD News Roundup

August 15, 2013 / no comments

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Second day in a row… I feel a streak building.  Though I think that if I take too much of this material in, my head will eventually explode.

A post on the U.S. Air Force website waxes enthusiastic about a “feelings free, scientific analysis” of the body’s reaction to stress that emphasizes “biological processes.”  Tania Glenn (a psychology Ph.D. and clinical social worker) emphasized the importance of cortisol, calling it “the key factor of PTSD.” Anybody who keeps up with the literature knows that the role of cortisol in traumatic stress reactions is poorly understood, and that results of studies have been mixed. A 2012 meta-analysis found that cortisol levels were not significantly different between trauma exposed people with PTSD, trauma exposed people without PTSD, and and healthy people who suffered no trauma.  I can’t speak to the accuracy with which Senior Airman Whitney Tucker recorded Dr. Glenn’s words, but if the quotes are correct, she’s pushing a dangerous line.  In her universe, “well-trained” soldiers “fight” while “flight” is a product of “the untrained brain and the passive personality.”  Glenn apparently tours the country, and is paid by the military to push this nonsense down the throats of military personnel, while emphatically denying the necessity of talking about feelings (which she coyly refers to as the “F-word”). Your tax dollars at work here, buying snake oil once again….

Robert Hart of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland found that patients who have PTSD symptoms after elective lumbar fusion surgery benefit less from the operation. The study, which included 73 patients who were psychological evaluated before and after surgery, was published in Spine 38:17 (August 2013).  22% of the cohort had PTSD symptoms. No surprise that traumatic stress inhibits healing.  In line with this, a recent twin study published in the Journal of the American of Cardiology shows that twins with PTSD are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than twins without PTSD. The nice thing about this study is that it controlled for other factors and it didn’t just rely on self-reporting. Psychological well-being affects physical well-being… who knew?

And in yet another @recycle of “promising new treatments” that are really old therapies that didn’t pan out, the military is dumping our tax dollars into Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Quotes like this make me want to smack my forehead: ““When you are just breathing air you’re breathing about 21 percent oxygen, by breathing 100 percent oxygen and adding the pressure it may change how the body heals the mind.” The last was courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Lesley, staff neurologist for the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. But don’t worry, Lesley assures us, “Whether the therapy is proven to help PTSD and TBIs or disproven, the results will help service members…. There are service members who pay out of pocket for this treatment out in town. If we can prove it works, then we can provide the treatment; if it doesn’t work, then we can save service members their money.” Riiiight, we can prevent our soldiers from losing money on quack therapies by subjecting them to quack therapies.  Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. which does work for some conditions (decompression sickness, smoke inhalation, gas gangrene) has been pushed as a quack cure for cancer, AIDS, autism, and Lyme disease. Here’s a nice article debunking the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen for neurological conditions.  And here’s a site that hypes this crap.

And hopping on the woo train, Mixed Martial Arts and yoga are both being hyped as “non-traditional” PTSD treatments by Bret Moore, a clinical psychologist and two tour Iraq veteran writing for the Marine Corps Times. The article is titled “Kevlar for the Mind,” a metaphor that implies that both activities have a protective effect.  So, hey, Marines, get out there and wrestle, and do your stretching and meditating, and you’ll be protected from traumatic stress. Not. Thank goodness that this column is “for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.

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