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Popular Post-Traumatic Stress Therapy May Be Making Patients Worse


In 2006, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs began treating veterans with what is now considered to be the “gold standard” treatment for PTSD. Prolonged exposure therapy, so named for the way that patients are repeatedly made to recount their traumatic experiences until it no longer bothers them, has one of the highest drop-out rates of any PTSD treatment at over 50% because it may actually be making vets’ symptoms worse.

How Prolonged Exposure Therapy Works

Prolonged exposure therapy works like this: The therapist looks over the particulars of the patient’s military service, and asks them to tell the story of their trauma over and over again during the course of about eight weeks. The aim is for the memory to become “habituated,” meaning it becomes like any other memory by losing its traumatic sting. The problem, however, is that this kind of therapy only helps about 60% of the people that undergo treatment, leaving some patients even more vulnerable than before to suicidal thoughts, violent behavior, and depression. The scientific merit of the treatment is questionable at best.

Associated Risks and Dangers

A number of the nation’s most experienced trauma researchers have warned about the potential dangers of this treatment after witnessing very troubling side effects. For example, a 1991 pilot study of six Vietnam veterans undergoing similar treatment had to be dropped because it resulted in two patients becoming suicidal, one breaking 19 months of sobriety, and others suffering from panic attacks and severe depression.

Similar outcomes have been observed in other studies, but since the VA has dedicated so much of their time and resources to this type of treatment, less confrontational alternative treatments still have yet to be explored. VA officials continue to defend the efficacy of their treatment despite the fact that for many victims of PTSD, it actually ends up exacerbating the problem.

Veterans Benefits for PTSD Sufferers

We proudly support the sacrifice and service of veterans. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD, you may be eligible to claim veterans disability benefits. The VA is infamous for complicating the process of claiming benefits, but we can offer you the assistance you need to more easily obtain the benefits that you have earned and which you unquestionably deserve. We have recovered millions for our clients, and we may be able to help you too. Contact the Las Vegas veterans disability lawyers at Shook & Stone, Chtd. for a free case evaluation.

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