You see them everyday in coffee houses, bars, libraries, and on the street. However, what you don’t see is the daily suffering of these men and women who served our country.
Washington D.C. is the home of nearly 30,000 veterans. Estimates suggest that one in six—or 5,000 of these soldiers—suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is an anxiety disorder often attributed to veterans that can occur as a result of the traumatic experiences of war. However, new data from the Institute of Medicine claims that the risk of PTSD can also be increased by exposure to explosive forces.
The IED Link to PTSD
During the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, hundreds of thousands of IEDs (improvised explosive devices)—jury-rigged bombs—have exploded, killing and physically wounding thousands of soldiers. However, the initial assessment of these wounds may have overlooked internal brain damage caused by the concussive explosion itself.
The IOM recently released a report stating that during these explosions, “the body absorbs a blast shock wave, sometimes causing nervous system or tissue damage that’s not apparent in the aftermath.”
The shock wave damage can then potentially increase the psychological risks for PTSD by harming the brain and disrupting cognitive function. It can also increase symptoms related to PTSD by causing:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Growth hormone deficiency
IOM researchers are urging the Department of Defense and Department of Veteran Affairs to diligently track and record instances of PTSD and veterans’ proximities to explosions, so more accurate data can be collected. Hopefully, once the full extent of blast force waves is understood, preventative measures can be taken in the future to decrease the severity of PTSD.
Shevlin Smith would like to thank all of our nation’s heroes and remind them that D.C. offers several institutes to help combat PTSD. These include The Center Post Traumatic Disorders Program and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which focus on treatment of brain injuries and psychological trauma, and may help you get the treatment you need.