Ask a Psychiatrist and Get Answers to Mental Health Questions ASAP
Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue. First let me say that I can imagine how difficult this situation must be for him and for you. That you are seeking help on his behalf is a very good thing and he is fortunate to have you as a parent. I will also at the end of the posting give you a technique you can share with him that he can use to help with his anxiety from the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he is suffering. It is not a cure but rather something he can use throughout the day or night to help himself in anxiety and the other parts of PTSD.
I am so sorry that your son has served his country and now is having to deal with his problem through the VA or army system. When it comes to PTSD they take the least effective approach because it is quick and just uses medications that can be dispensed. One doesn't work, throw another at the soldier. This is not often effective. Because medications only treat the anxiety and depression symptoms associated with PTSD, not the PTSD itself. Psychotherapy geared toward PTSD is needed for that. So even going to a civilian doctor will not alter this situation. He needs to see a psychologist or psychotherapist who is experienced with PTSD therapy.
Psychotherapy that is helpful is some form of Exposure Therapy. I have found EMDR can be very useful especially for traumas. It is a type of therapy specifically for PTSD originally. Here is the International Society's website:
On the web you will find many opinions on EMDR both for and against. I am trained in it and have found it useful. Exposure therapy is also very helpful. HOWEVER, and this is important: I have found that you need to combine these types of therapy with a more introspective, humanistic approach. If we actually look inside, we can find great relief and meaning. And we can feel whole in ourselves in ways that we haven't for decades. But many EMDR practitioners and therapist working with Exposure Therapy do not take the time to insure the emotional safety of the patient and so that's why you need someone who is more humanistic in approach.
If you don't have a good referral source, here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (you can see a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list working with PTSD and EMDR and also some form of humanistic therapy in their orientations. And make sure they have experience with soldiers or you are at least confident in them as a therapist and they share your values. http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/ So, please recommend to him to seek help and to get this treated. I wish you both the very best!
Finally, I am going to put here a protocol that is used for anxiety and PTSD type symptoms that resemble panic attacks. When I work with people who can't sleep because of PTSD, they have great anxiety that often has similar symptoms to panic. It's often that you can't breathe from it, that it's a choking feeling tells me that there's an underlying anxiety we have to address. So I want to give you this technique to help you IMMEDIATELY! while you look for the medical and psychological help. So, I want you to have this easy technique you can use right away to help you in every stage of your social anxiety: when you're thinking about going; when you're in transit; when you're about to go into the social situation. Throughout you will have this technique to help you!
Here are instructions on a therapeutic protocol called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). It's really quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from panic attacks or anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first when you don't wake up with an attack so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before an attack or feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety even if it just seems like sleeplessness, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum.
I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in a panic attack is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help. So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?
Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.
What You Need:
The VA has a list of therapist that your son can see they carry his insurance from my VA. If the therapy for him is not working he needs to find a therapist who will work well with him. I have to say I agree with everything Dr. Mark said. I have seen that the problem with working with vets is that they have been trained in the military to not feel their feelings. He will have to become comfortable with feeling his pain slowly and yes meditation works very well in therapy for PTSD in combination with talk therapy. I wonder how I can help you cope with this, this is not easy for you to see.
I am so sorry that your son is experiencing such difficulties. I think you are doing your best by being a supportive loving mother. He has to be easy on himself. I have noticed from working with vets that they feel very guilty when they can't serve their country any longer. Is not a realistic guilt but one imposed by their high expectations of themselves. I would tell him that I am proud of him and that I love him no-matter what happens. War is traumatic I can't even Imagen what it feels like when your life and the life of others you love are on the line all the time, or when you see others die in frond of you. Being human means being hurt by all that. I bet he sees being angry and emotional as a weakness when it is not. Some wounds are not visible and harder to treat. I wonder if you can find a support group for yourself. I also would recommend one for your son with other vets in the VA. I think caring so much shows him that you are there for him. It is the best you can do. I wish I had a magic answer. I think encouraging him to talk about his experience is all you can do and keep loving him. As a mother I know that I want to take my kids pain away but both me and you can't do that. I think if he continues to go to treatment eventually he will get better.
Keep your faith..