Is PTSD Curable? The Real Truth
I can't tell you how many times a veteran with PTSD has informed me that PTSD can't be cured. That is, according to VA therapists.
I disagree. Sort of.
Several years ago, my cell rang. Dr. Counselor's voice flowed out of the receiver. "I have a PTSD patient I need you to see. ASAP."
I had treated PTSD before, but the patients had expected a fast fix and you don't do fast fixes with PTSD. It takes patience and time.
The veteran presented the opposite case. This man was easily the worst case of PTSD I'd every seen. His Iraqi war memories devastated him. Suicidal, alcoholic, losing his marriage, couldn't work, he could barely come out of his bedroom most days. His physician, a former pharmacist, had prescribed a multitude of helpful drugs that should have, but weren't, helping. His desperation led him to cling to me like a small child to his mother.
To be perfectly honest, I was confused about where to start. Prioritizing, my first goal was to keep him out of the hospital. His doctor knew his psychiatric medicines and sending Veteran Joe to the hospital would result in major changes in his medications from a doctor, an hour away, that he would see every few months. This man needed intense therapy and a doctor who could see him every day if need be.
In concert with his physician, we embarked on a schedule of cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmaceutical intervention that spanned the majority of a year, sometimes twice a week, not counting the phone calls in between. Someone had to be there for this veteran just to keep him alive.
Cognitive behavior therapy is simply a means of helping the patient restructure their thinking by controlling and refocusing their thoughts with techniques and logic.
The veteran, mentally, had never left Iraq. He never felt safe for himself or for his children. He had to pack his bags and move back stateside to adapt to a civilized environment. With therapy he eventually stopped looking around every corner and hitting the floor at every bang.
Don't get the idea this happened easily. We had to drag him out of Iraq and mentally follow him through his day. But within a year he was finally able to function independently and work.
He went back to living. Although he and his wife divorced, he found a new, understanding mate and spent quality time with his kids. His days were peaceful and productive. He made friends. He had fun.
Only one time, so far, has the PTSD surfaced again. He had to be evaluated by another psychologist who, I'm not sure why, made him relate his whole trauma story to her in detail. I spent hours on the phone with him for days after that.
The crisis passed within a week. He's back to normal, but understands that certain stressors cause relapse. But he feels he is basically cured. And this may be as good as it gets for a veteran with such deep emotional scarring.