Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) is a battle scar of sorts that many war veterans come home with. Although unseen by the naked eye, the symptoms of PTSD can be as debilitating as a physical injury. Servicemen and..." /> Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) is a battle scar of sorts that many war veterans come home with. Although unseen by the naked eye, the symptoms of PTSD can be as debilitating as a physical injury. Servicemen and..." />

Military Personnel Prefer Therapy to Medication in Treating PTSD

Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) is a battle scar of sorts that many war veterans come home with. Although unseen by the naked eye, the symptoms of PTSD can be as debilitating as a physical injury. Servicemen and servicewomen with PTSD typically develop symptoms as a result of being exposed to a traumatic event during combat—watching someone die, for instance, or being wounded. Long after the physical scars heal, the psychological scars can persist if left untreated. Sadly, many military veterans who need treatment for PTSD do not seek it. Like civilians, veterans often avoid treatment due to the stigma associated with mental issues. For many soldiers, the idea of receiving psychological help could be threatening to their self-image and their belief that as a soldier, they should be strong enough to handle it.

There are several approaches in treating PTSD. Among the most widely accepted are prolonged exposure (PE) therapy (PE), virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE), and medication. PE and VRE have been shown to be highly successful in decreasing symptoms of PTSD, but barriers to treatment still exist. In order to determine which barriers inhibit soldiers from getting the treatment they need, Greg M. Reger, from the National Center for Telehealth and Technology at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, interviewed 174 soldiers who served in Iraq and asked them to cite which of the three aforementioned treatment methods they would prefer and why.

The participants reported high levels of shame related to seeking treatment—in particular, pharmacological treatment. They voiced concerns about how medication would affect their careers, performance, and colleagues’ attitudes toward them. Most of the participants chose either VRE or PE over medication for these reasons. The participants also believed that exposure therapy would be more effective than medication at relieving them of their PTSD symptoms. “These findings can help inform provider education of treatment options and demonstrate the importance of considering patient reactions to a treatment plan, as preferences may impact adherence,” Reger added.

Reger, G. M., Durham, T. L., Tarantino, K. A., Luxton, D. D., Holloway, K. M., Lee, J. A. (2012). Deployed soldiers’ reactions to exposure and medication treatments for PTSD. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028409

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  • Samuel

    September 6th, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I guess this is because while these military personnel would see taking medication as needing help, they would see getting either of these therapy things as getting themselves help but not having to rely on something external to overcome the PTSD? Maybe there is more of a perception that taking meds is weak by those in the military or they could be afriad that the meds could hamper their ability to do their jobs effectively. Quite a difference from others in society though, because it is apparent that many people have the idea that a medication or drug can fix anything and that they don’t have to do any of the hard work. Wrong! You still have to be the force behind getting those medications to be effective and reliable.

  • tudor

    September 6th, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    while they are making good choices by choosing therapy over meds I think they are doing it for the wrong reasons. rather than actually being aware of the benefits that therapy offers over meds they are turning to it only to ‘hide’ their treatment from other people.

  • danny

    September 7th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    I so would have assumed that most people would prefer medication to long and involved therapy- looks like they might think that the medication would work a little faster than sitting through therapy?

  • Michelle

    September 7th, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    Seeing that so many veterans have PTSD and other mental health issues as a result of their duty and with most of them shying away from treatment, it would only seem fit to somehow train them to better be able to handle the traumatic scenes and events they may come across. Maybe there is some way to make them mentally tougher than most other people, that would solve this problem to an extent, what do you all think?

  • GARE th

    September 7th, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Why is it that others’ opinion matters to almost everybody?! Come on vets, you guys are strong now show us you are strong mentally and psychologically too. Go beyond the useless stigma that people hold and lead the way. Do not be afraid of seeking treatment. After all, curing yourself is far more important than others giving their uneducated opinions about it, yeah?

  • Junie

    September 8th, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Yay GARE th!! That’s exactly the point that we need to get across. Who cares what someone else think? You need help, then get help, take care of yourself, no one else will or can do that for you!

  • rafe

    September 10th, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Really quite surpised here
    thought for sure therapy brought more stigma than meds
    not that i feel that way but that the military could

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