18-29 Segment 2: PTSD in Kids

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Contrary to popular belief, children can also develop PTSD. While over 5 million adults in the US develop post-traumatic stress disorder every year, children as young as 2 or 3 can also experience this chronic condition. Dr. Michael Scheeringa, Professor of Child Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Tulane University School of Medicine, explains more about PTSD in children.

Many believe that children are too young to remember traumatic experiences leading to PTSD, but by the age of 16, two thirds of all youths in America have been exposed to a life-threatening event. Dr. Scheeringa explains that experiences like being in a motor vehicle accident, witnessing domestic violence, being sexually abused, being attacked by a dog, or experiencing a school shooting or a natural disaster are just some of the ways a child can develop PTSD.

While PTSD is a prevalent condition in children, it is often misdiagnosed or not identified at all for three reasons: avoidance issues, internalized PTSD symptoms, and the general complexity of the condition with as many as 20 different symptoms. Although PTSD is a chronic condition and is seldom fully recovered from, treatment options are available. Dr. Scheeringa recommends evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavior therapy that teaches children new coping techniques and helps them work through the memories of their traumatic experience. While PTSD is a difficult condition to live with, Dr. Scheeringa says that there is also the possibility of post-traumatic growth, where something good can come from overcoming traumatic events.

To learn more about PTSD in children or about our guest, see the links below.

Guest:

  • Dr. Michael Scheeringa, Professor of Child Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Tulane University School of Medicine

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18-19 Segment 1: Firefighters and PTSD

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Firefighters have an extremely high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One study found that each year firefighters are exposed to approximately thirteen and a half potentially traumatic events, compared to civilians who experience around one to six of the same kind of events in their entire lifetime. Clearly, firefighters’ stress load is more than the average person, but what constitutes a traumatic event and how does one develop PTSD?

Dr. Suzy Gulliver is the Director and Chief of the Warriors Research Institute at Baylor & Scott White Health in Dallas, Texas as well as a Professor of Psychiatry at Texas A&M College of Medicine Health Science Center. She says experts define potentially traumatic events as those outside normal experience that threaten a person’s life or integrity. Although, how people deal with these events can vary dramatically. “For some people, a traumatic event is resolvable in just a normal grief process and for other people, a traumatic event fails to resolve ever,” says Gulliver.

According to Gulliver, most people in high-risk jobs, such as first responder and those in the military, do not develop PTSD. Around 70-80% of firefighters and veterans will not develop the disorder, although veterans have the added difficulty of transitioning to civilian life without the consistent social structure shared by members of a firehouse. A supportive social structure and a strong network of co-workers can act as a ‘buffer’ to PTSD, which is why Gulliver sees firefighting as a good career choice for veterans. Although she cautions multiple traumatic events over time can also cumulate into PTSD.

Symptoms include re-experiencing traumatic events, substantial changes in mood and cognition, significant behavioral shifts, and increased arousal. PTSD can also precipitate sleep problems, drug and alcohol abuse, appearing withdrawn and propensity for being startled. Severe PTSD is typically easy to identify, but borderline forms of the disorder can be extremely varied and harder to diagnose. Some people may have all the symptoms but still function relatively well in society. There is no typical way PTSD is dealt with or displayed.

Dan Robertson, Oakland fire lieutenant and President of the Local 55 of the International Association of Firefighters, says those in his field are uncomfortable sharing the impacts of trauma with fellow first responders because they fear being viewed as weak or unable to be trusted. Robertson says it’s the responsibility of senior firefighters to show it’s safe to talk about traumatic events and admit to having PTSD. If not, those afflicted deal with the disorder on their own and are offered little assistance. Robertson encourages peer counseling for firefighters because many believe anyone outside the profession cannot possibly understand what they’re going through.

Gulliver says research shows peer support can be effective in treating depression. It can likely help those with PTSD as well. Ultimately, the stigma of getting help for PTSD is decreasing. Most importantly, the firefighters participating in support programs say it’s saving lives.

Guests:

  • Dan Robertson, Oakland CA fire lieutenant and President, Local 55, International Association of Firefighters
  • Dr. Suzy Bird Gulliver, Director and Chief, Warriors Research Institute, Baylor Scott & White Health, Dallas, and Professor of Psychiatry, Texas A&M College of Medicine Health Science Center

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Coming Up On Radio Health Journal Show 18-19

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Firefighters and PTSD

Firefighters have extremely high rates of PTSD, similar to combat soldiers, yet are very reluctant to seek help. Experts discuss reasons for this reluctance, results of it, and how new efforts at peer counseling may help ease the psychological strain.  

Autism and Prodigies

Behavioral similarities between prodigies and some people with autism have long been noted. Now some researchers are beginning to find genetic links between the two phenomena. Experts discuss findings and their implications for autism treatment.

18-10 Segment 1: Overdoing School Lockdown Drills

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Due to the spike in school shootings over the last few years, people are becoming more concerned with the safety of students, teachers, and other individual’s on school campuses. Many schools have started taking cautionary measures by preparing students and teachers with the knowledge on how to remain safe in these incidents. In fact, more than 70% of schools conduct active shooter drills. However, there has not been a consensus on how to most effectively perform these drills, and some schools may be taking them a little too far.

In some cases, schools announce the drills, but sometimes they do not. Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at University of Southern California, explains that even if the drill is announced it can still be a stressful experience for students or teachers with traumatic past experiences. And, in realistic drills in which students and teachers are not aware, Dr. Schonfeld states that it can cause post-traumatic reaction, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Active shooter education and drills are important for students and teachers to experience, but they must be taught at a speed that the students can handle and in a supportive environment.

How can schools be more effective in their execution of lockdown drills? Dr. Schonfeld discourages schools from using deception in their drills. He suggests that the most beneficial way to inform students and teachers is to begin with education courses on what to do in the event of a lockdown. Then, he believes that it is helpful to conduct a tabletop activity in which an adult talks about how they would deal with the situation, and help the students to make a plan, before eventually acting out the plan. Through these activities, students are able to acquire the knowledge they need to remain safe in these situations without having to endure a potentially traumatic experience.

Guests:

  • Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at University of Southern California

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17-31 Segment 1: Car Crash Victims & PTSD

 

Car accidents are the leading causes of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the US. We talk with Dr. Edward Hickling, author and Professor of Psychology at the University of Albany, who says that about 3 million people are involved in serious car accidents every year, and for about 20% of those people, the psychological symptoms don’t go away after a month. Hickling says that PTSD is a normal reaction to a traumatic incident because humans aren’t supposed to be in life threatening situations. One of the causes of PTSD after a car crash is hyperarousal, where any sight or sound related to a car crash can trigger a person’s memory and cause anxiety, stress and more. Individuals suffering from PTSD may also experience flashbacks in their daily life or in nightmares. Physical changes may range from hair fallout to respiratory or cardiovascular issues. PTSD is also more likely if the person believed that they were going to die as the crash was occurring.Dr. Hickling says that following an accident, many survivors find it harder to be a passenger rather than the driver because as a passenger they have less control and feel more vulnerable. He advises that it’s important for the survivor to learn something from the incident, no matter how horrific it was.

We talk with two crash survivors, Bill Hansen and Debbie Miller Koziarz, about their experiences with PTSD. Hansen, who walked away physically uninjured from his accident, describes feeling unsure whether he was alive or dead for days following the accident, and how these doubts persisted until he got help. Koziarz endured nine surgeries in the six years following her car accident, and describes feeling so anxious to be in a car again that sometimes she would even try to jump out.

PTSD is a serious condition, and survivors of traumatic events should not be afraid to seek help. Crash survivors are more likely to avoid taking risks of any kind, often choosing to stay indoors rather than resuming their normal lives, but this can prolong and worsen PTSD.  Without treatment, the condition may alter their behavior and actions permanently. PTSD experts help patients to work through their trauma in order to see the world as it was for them prior to the accident.

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Guests:

  • Bill Hansen, car accident survivor

  • Dr. Edward Hickling, Prof. of Psychology, Univ. at Albany and co-author, After the Crash

  • Debbie Miller Koziarz, car accident survivor

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Coming Up On Radio Health Journal Show 17-31

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Car Crash Victims and PTSD

Auto accidents are the largest cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 25 percent of people injured in car crashes will suffer from it. Accident survivors and one of the world’s foremost experts discuss variables that make PTSD worse and those that make recovery easier, as well as the essentials victims must carry out to recover.

Evaluating Veterans’ Healthcare

Around nine million military veterans receive healthcare services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. An expert discusses her contention that the care the VA provides is much better than its perception.

Medical Notes 17-12

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Medical Notes this week…

People who’ve gone to the hospital for treatment of a mental health disorder have an increased risk of stroke for months afterward. A study presented to the International Stroke Conference in Houston shows that people going to the hospital for psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD have triple the risk of a stroke in the next month and double the risk for the next year or more. Scientists speculate that mental illness may provoke the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism which can raise blood pressure and stroke risk.

Early risers may be healthier than people who sleep in. A study in the journal Obesity shows that early birds tend to eat more balanced diets than night owls. They also eat earlier in the day, which helps with weight loss and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

And finally, many Americans are working from home at least part of the time and a new poll shows we like it that way. However, a little bit of office camaraderie is a good thing. The Gallup survey finds that 43 percent of employees work remotely at least part of the time and that the most engaged workers are those who spend three to four days a week working from home. People who work in the office all the time or at home all the time are the least engaged employees.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.