Scientists shocked by PTSD discovery


A new study may change the way the scientific community thinks about PTSD.

New research is turning current understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on its head.

A surprising new study indicates that PTSD can suddenly spike five years after a person leaves the battlefield, even when PTSD levels had declined to normal, according to a Reuters report.

It’s an indication that soldiers may need to be screened for PTSD long after getting back from a deployment, as the disorder can lie dormant for a while before suddenly reemerging.

The goal of the study was to gain insight into the changes in posttraumatic stress complaints in a long-term period after deployment, ultimately to evaluate the timing of an increase in treatment demand after deployment,” Iris Eekhout of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the lead author on the study, said in an interview with Reuters. The study focused on 1,007 Dutch soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan between 2005 and 2008. They found that PTSD levels spiked six months after returning home but returned to pre-deployment levels after about a year. Unexpectedly, however, they found another huge spike about five years after deployment.

PTSD affects up to 20 percent of Iraq war veterans. Until now, studies had been focused on the short-term health effects.

PTSD can be a debilitating condition where soldiers who have been through a traumatic event feel a constant sense of fear or shame or get flashbacks to a terrifying event that leaves them unable to function on a day-to-day basis.

In a recent news release, Brown University warned that there is a lack of resource for non-veterans suffering from PTSD, illustrating just how nascent the research is into the disorder now that veterans have brought some light to the issue.

“For the other people affected by PTSD — victims of sexual assault, child abuse and natural disasters — there really isn’t an organized body of research that generates guidance for how they and their caregivers should deal with their PTSD,” said Judith Bentkover in a statment. Bentkover is the lead author of the study and a professor of the practice in the Brown University School of Public Health and executive and academic director of the Executive Masters in Healthcare Leadership degree program. “We know that gender, race, and culture affect how people deal with anxiety. The research that there is to date doesn’t provide a robust evidence base for treating PTSD in specific vulnerable subpopulations, by either sociodemographic cohort or by cause of PTSD. And where there are some good studies, we need better ways of organizing, synthesizing, retrieving, and translating the information we do have so that all treatment providers, patients, and caregivers can benefit from this knowledge.”