What was left out of the presidential candidate’s comments to a group of veterans on Monday, and what has been left out of many of the discussions since then, is how little we understand PTSD. Thirty-six years after the disorder became an official listing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, not a single medication has been developed specifically for its treatment. Rather, doctors rely on a host of antidepressant, anti-anxiety and other drugs to try to relieve PTSD’s symptoms.
“‘Why do we know so little today?’ is the question we should be asking,” said retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the chief executive of One Mind, an independent nonprofit dedicated to brain injury and illness. “We’ve been fighting this war [in Afghanistan and Iraq] for 15 years, and we had similar problems coming out of Vietnam and World War II. ... We don't even know how many [veterans] have PTSD.”
Part of the problem, Chiarelli noted Tuesday, is that mental-health specialists don’t have a good definition of the disorder. “People look at this as a diagnosable disease, like cancer,” he said. “We can biologically diagnose a tumor. But we can’t see anything with PTSD.”
And while doctors and researchers aren’t too far away from developing “good, biologically based diagnostics,” Chiarelli thinks they are still way behind the understanding and treatment of traumatic brain injury. “When you start venturing into the brain,” he said, “it’s like going back into what we knew about the heart in the 1930s,” when treatment for a heart attack was three weeks of bed rest.
From the Holocaust to climate change to vaccines, some people refuse to accept the truth. Anyone who believes that those suffering from PTSD are somehow weaker-minded are simply misunderstanding how the brain can be affected by emotional trauma, Chiarelli said.
The same point was made by Vice President Biden Tuesday morning in an interview with CNN, when he chastised Trump for his ignorance and for not grasping what it means to have PTSD.
“Look at what these kids are going through,” Biden said. “Look at the sacrifices they’re making and look what they go to sleep dreading.”
Content Originally Published By: Amy Ellis Nutt @ The Washington Post