17 December, 2009

So You Say Your Friends Got Blown To Bits...

...half your face got blown off, and now you have inescapable nightmares, flashbacks, and all the other symptoms of PTSD?  No sweat!  Just think positive, man!
I mentioned before that they were looking at this "positive thinking" program for vets with PTSD - something that seems like a way to cut costs rather than treat vets' trauma.

Now psychologist Bryant Welch says the program has no scientific validity:
Johnny had been with his platoon when they were attacked by enemy fire and pinned down for the better part of two days. Much of his face was blown off. His two closest buddies died gruesome and agonizing deaths while lying on top of him.
As a psychologist, my work with him was not medical. It was to address the psychological trauma, then newly labeled as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], that haunted him and to help him "grieve" that much of his life had been blown away along with his face.
The pain of his surgeries was nothing compared to the night terrors that undercut his every attempt at sleep. The flashbacks that occurred daily put him back in the jungles of Viet Nam and the noises in the hallways became the sounds of advancing Viet Cong. Nurses and doctors could suddenly become menacing figures who he believed had captured him and were about to torture him. He was terrified to take his medications and unexpected noises could leave him shaken for hours.
Emotionally, on the best of days Johnny fluctuated between agitated depression and complete numbness in which he was unable to feel at all. He felt cut off from his family and felt enraged and misunderstood when they tried to "cheer him up." Johnny was not actively homicidal, like some of the PTSD vets on his psychiatry ward, but he was consumed with thoughts of suicide.
As a psychologist who has treated many serious cases of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, it was a jaw dropping experience to learn that under a new $119 million military program these young men and women who have sacrificed so much will have their PTSD addressed with a superficial, psychological treatment based loosely on Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking, known in this generation's iteration as "positive psychology" or the "psychology of optimism.
There is no evidence that the techniques of positive psychology can prevent or ameliorate the effects of PTSD. When its adherents' attempt to extrapolate simplistic studies done on normal junior high students to military combat troops struggling with military traumas they are misleading the military, the public, and, most importantly, the troops.
You have got to be fucking kidding me.  As someone who suffered a mild case of PTSD many years ago, I can assure you that the power of positive thinking isn't what got me through.  You can't use optimism and positive thinking to haul you up from those depths.  Oh, I'm sure there are very rare exceptions - there's a freak in every bunch - but for fuck's sake, telling someone who goes through a horrific trauma to be optimistic and have a positive outlook is the most ridiculous fucking thing I've ever heard.

If our government pulls this shit on the troops, they deserve to be prosecuted for intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress.

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