Dealing with Post-traumatic Stress - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dealing with Post-traumatic Stress

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May 6, 2003

By Orrin Schonfeld

As America’s fighting men and women return home from the battlefields of Iraq and the horrors of war some of them may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, but others will not.

The Special Forces troops that carried out the daring rescue of Army Supply Clerk Jessica Lynch may be special for another reason. They are less likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, than average soldiers.

"The special forces people do differ in their capacity to cope," said post-traumatic stress disorder expert Dr. Matthew Friedman, MD, PhD.

According to a study at the Army's Survival Training School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the elite soldiers produce more of a molecule called Neuropeptide-Y, which helps calm them in times of stress. But Friedman says it's not known whether Special Forces soldiers are born with the right stuff or if it's developed through their special training.

But one thing is known for sure. "Through trial and error the military has some good ways of identifying individuals who are different."

Soldiers aren't the only ones who suffer with PTSD. According to the national institute of mental health any terrifying event; including natural disasters, car accidents, or violent crime can cause it. The agency estimates that about five million Americans have the disorder.

If the Special Forces' special trait is the result of their training, should others be trained? "If we can obviously we want to train military folks or firefighters, first responders, mental health people who do the kind of work I do. Train them, to save them from PTSD,” said Dr. Friedman.

Researchers hope to better understand why some people are more resilient and others more vulnerable to developing PTSD and perhaps learn how to prevent the onset of the disorder.

posted at 10:00AM by dave.miller@walb.com