Veterans of the Suncoast suffering PTSD may have help from clinical study

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Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 11:04 am | Updated: 11:27 am, Tue Jul 9, 2013.

PTSD may develop when a person experiences a traumatic event in which actual or threatened death or injury is involved, and the response is intense fear or helplessness. Later, the event is often re-experienced through intrusive thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks. Avoidance of activities, places, or people that are reminders of the event is common. Feelings of isolation and detachment from others may also be present.

A third aspect of PTSD is increased arousal, which may include difficulty sleeping,irritability and anger, hyper-vigilance, or an exaggerated startle response. PTSD is associated with poor quality of life, guilt, unemployment, and other life challenges.

How Common is PTSD?

PTSD may affect about 8% of the adult population in the United States. At-risk groups exposed to specific traumatic events, such as those exposed to military combat, have much higher rates, up to 18%.

How is PTSD Treated?

Successful treatment is based on a scientific process known as extinction. Imagine you had a fear of dogs. If dogs are avoided, the fear becomes stronger, but if you come into contact with dogs (in a controlled manner), the fear will decrease, or extinguish.

Traumatic events are more complicated, but are treated in the same way. Under the guidance of a psychologist, repeated exposure to the thoughts or images of the traumatic event will reduce fear and anxiety.

Because it is impossible to re-create the traumatic events of war in real life, virtual

reality software is used as a tool to aid in the treatment of PTSD. Sights, sounds and smells can be used in exposure therapy to increase the effectiveness of the therapy.

How can I learn more about participating in this program?

The program is available to all veterans and active military personnel, regardlessof service branch, who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. If you are suffering from PTSD, you may qualify to participate in this clinical research program. This program, to be conducted at University of Central Florida Anxiety Disorders Clinic, is funded by the Department of Defense and combines Virtual-Reality Exposure Therapy with group treatment.

There is no charge for taking part in this treatment program. The program is 17 weeks in length and includes 29 treatment sessions. You will participate in a total of 35 hours of therapy during the 17-week treatment program.

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