Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the greatest challenges facing servicemembers after they leave the battlefield. Although there are no official statistics, experts estimate that approximately 20 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experience PTSD symptoms. While some troops get treatment for the condition, others encounter obstacles by not meeting certain criteria for being officially diagnosed with the disorder. However, new guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) could change that, Time magazine reports.
Fewer obstacles for diagnosis
The changes will come about as part of the APA's latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, also known as DSM-5. Experts say the shift could make it easier for troops with PTSD to be diagnosed because of the elimination of criterion A-2. This requirement stipulated that troops needed to experience fear, helplessness and horror during the incident that may have given them PTSD. The issue with this is that most troops respond without any of those feelings in the event of a gun battle or improvised explosive device being detonated, and it's the lingering memories that are the most problematic. According to the publication, the new criteria would focus on things like cognitive difficulties, depressive symptoms and strong reactions to certain triggers.
Potential treatment breakthrough?
A revision to the diagnostic criteria is not the only potential good news for servicemembers with PTSD. Researchers from New York University's Langone Medical Center believe they have potentially developed the first pharmaceutical treatment for PTSD. The team's findings were published recently in the journal "Molecular Psychiatry" and relate to relationship between the brain's cannabinoid receptors and PTSD.
"There's not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD," said lead author Dr. Alexander Neumeister. "That's a problem. There's a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressants simp[ly] do not work."
Pentagon taking action
Recently, The Department of Defense (DOD) has been working to improve how it responds to PTSD. Specifically, DOD officials have been working to foster an environment that encourages troops to seek treatment if they experience PTSD symptoms, according to The News Tribune. These changes come after a review of doctors at Madigan Army Medical Center revealed some of them were downgrading troops who may have had the condition.