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Veterans and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: EMDR - An Effective Treatment for PTSD!:
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Veterans and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:  EMDR-An Effective Treatment for PTSD!

By Robert Salvatore, MSW, LCSW

EMDR Certified Clinician


JP returned from a deployment in two years ago.  He served heroically in Baghdad for 15 months where he regularly witnessed death and dismemberment.  His life was on the line daily. 


 Upon his return, he began waking up screaming with nightmares, which scared his wife and children.  Usually laid back, he became angry and irritable at seemingly small things.  He couldn't concentrate at work.  He inadvertently began to push his family away. 


 After a year, his wife asked him for a divorce and suggested that he get counseling.  Prompted to action, he sought an evaluation and was diagnosed with PTSD.  He was lucky to find the right help.  He has recovered from PTSD and his marriage was saved. 


 There are thousands of veterans suffering like JP.


 In June of 2007, The Army Times reported that 50% of our troops are returning from and with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric disorder which can be quickly treated.  The prevalence of PTSD is higher than in any previous wars, including the Vietnam Conflict. 


 What is PTSD?

PTSD occurs after someone has been exposed to a traumatic event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.  The person's response was intense fear, helplessness or horror.


The symptoms of PTSD include:


  • Recurring, intrusive recollections of the event,
  • Reoccurring dreams of the incident,
  • Flashbacks like they are reliving the experience,
  • Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that resemble an aspect of the  trauma event, and
  • Physiological reactivity to similar cues. 


Persons suffering with PTSD may also:


  • Avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma,
  • Avoid people, places or activities that arouse recollections of the trauma,
  • Be unable to recall important aspects of the trauma,
  • Feel detached from others,
  • Lose interest in activities,
  • Have difficulty feeling, and/or
  • Sense a foreshortened future. 


Other symptoms include: insomnia, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilence, and an exaggerated startle response.  (abbreviated from the DSM-IV)



A number of factors influence the number of soldiers returning with PTSD and there are several probable reasons for this high rate.  Among them:

1.   Our troops are engaged in cities and towns where they cannot easily distinguish enemy combatants from civilians.  The enemy combatants do not wear uniforms, and any typically dressed citizen could be a suicide bomber.  This is a very stressful situation that troops face daily.


2.  The length and number of tours of duty has increased.  In the Vietnam Conflict, a tour was one year, and soldiers knew they were getting out at the end of that time.  Further tours came only if one volunteered.  In our current wars, the tour can be 12 to 15 months, and some units have been called up four times.  Often the tour end date is moved back at the last minute.  Many of our soldiers are National Guards, not full-time career military.  They have full-time jobs and families here at home.  When their deployment ends they return to civilian life.


3.   The unpopularity of the war.  Our troops joined the military to protect and serve our country and its ideals.  When there is a hue and cry against a war, this can create an ethical and moral conflict.  In addition, the ambivalence of the Iraqi people to our presence and the deaths of civilians cause guilt and shame.  War can cause fatigue and alienation. 


One never knows when or how PTSD will be triggered.  Some veterans of previous military conflicts are having PTSD symptoms triggered by the constant scenes of the war on TV and other media.  Images of rescue work in flood areas, with muddy waters and helicopters flying overhead, are triggering other vets to re-experience the horrors of their military experience. 


A Cure

There is a relatively simple and highly effective therapy for PTSD called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).  I have used it with a number of veterans and all experienced a remission of PTSD symptoms in one to eight sessions.  

EMDR is the most researched therapy in mental health and is recommended by the US Department of Defense for the treatment of PTSD.  It works far more quickly than any other approach and is effective for any kind of trauma, big or small.  For more detailed information about this therapy, read Answering Your Questions About EMDR which can be found on this website.  Additional information can also be found at or

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