Dual diagnosis: A crisis rampant among war veterans - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
05-05-17 Category: Dual Diagnosis

An individual exposed to trauma is generally vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In turn, he/she resorts to substance abuse to alleviate the pain caused by PTSD and ends up becoming a victim of both past traumatic experience as well as substance use disorder (SUD). Soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors, in particular, those on perilous missions with higher odds of being exposed to deadly and life-threatening experiences are highly susceptible to PTSD and subsequent SUD.

Feeling upset by painful memories of the past, experiencing repeated nightmares and uncontrollable urge to douse the pain with a feel-good stimulant are the classic symptoms of dual diagnosis, which men in uniform usually go through in their lives. Notably, using drugs or alcohol usually makes PTSD symptoms worse.

Mike Fischer (name changed), a military veteran, piloted several aircraft in 32 high-risk combat missions against Iraqi troops and tanks. His years of commendable front-line squadron experience bears testimony to his commitment to the nation. Apart from facing the constant threat of death, the 51-year-old former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot has seen a terrific deal of active combat during his years of service in the remotest of locations.

But, some incidents have left an indelible impression on his mind, the trauma of which still continues to haunt Fischer, a resident of Los Angeles, till this day. The petrifying sight of Larry (name changed), a close comrade-in-arms and confidant, being blown up by a landmine in the middle of the hostile swathes of the Arabian Desert was one such unforgettable tragedy. For years to come, the images of his friend’s bones sticking out of his legs, shrapnel lodged deep into the skull and dislocated entrails continued to plague Fischer, causing chronic unrest and panic attacks. Even after returning to civilian life, he couldn’t erase those ghastly flashbacks of that deadly day.

Besides, the smell of diesel during any trip to the gas station would immediately rekindle bitter memories of aircraft and the war zone. Therefore, Fischer often stayed away from all social gatherings, in particular with his old air force buddies. The company of ex-airmen would always rake up old poignant memories, which were better left buried. His wife complained of his irritable and closed nature. Falling asleep at night became a cumbersome task as sounds of air raids, shrieks of dying men and erupting landmines haunted him constantly. Alcohol seemed to be the only way to deal with such mental trauma, offering him the much needed temporary relief. However, in no time it aggravated his existing mental agony. Lack of understanding and living in a delusional world of machismo made him ignore the fact that he was suffering from PTSD and alcoholism.

Fischer is one of the hundreds of war veterans battling the co-existing disorders of PTSD and SUD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more than two of 10 veterans with PTSD also have SUD. In fact, war veterans with PTSD indulge in binge drinking in response to tragic memories of combat trauma. Highlighting the disturbing mental health crisis in the country, new data from the VA suggests that roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide. Unfortunately, PTSD, exacerbated by substance abuse, is the main cause, where the victim is usually hesitant to seek professional help.

“PTSD affects only sissies,” is the common mindset that prevents many men in uniform from seeking help when they need it the most. Living up to their macho image is one single misconception, which often leads to self-medication in the form of substance abuse.

Why do veterans fail to seek treatment?

“The brave men and women, who serve their country and as a result, live constantly with the war inside them, exist in a world of chaos” is what Robert Koger, former training administrator for the U.S. Air Force, says in his 2013 best-seller Death’s Revenge. His statement is certainly true when it comes to the mental and behavioral health in the U.S. military. Most of the soldiers don’t get mental health treated due to the below-mentioned reasons:

  • Fear of repercussion for seeking treatment: Recent studies suggest that more than a third of soldiers felt they might be denied promotions or be sidelined.
  • Danger of dishonorable discharges: Past incidents show that soldiers have been routinely subject to dishonorable discharges, adversely affecting their benefits, including chances to secure civilian employment post retirement.
  • Limited access to treatment: Being stationed in remote and inaccessible locations of the world with almost negligible treatment facilities is another reason.
  • Insufficient mental health screenings: Shame, ignorance and stigma associated with mental illness prevent some soldiers with existing psychiatric problems from seeking help.

Dual diagnosis is treatable

Taking cognizance of the fact that overall well-being is equally critical to mission success, the department of defense has revamped several of its policies in the recent past to ensure the better mental health of all officers. Since the changes in rules in 2014, seeking treatment for a mental health condition will not affect one’s career in the defense forces. In addition, following changes to security clearance procedures, people needn’t fear losing clearance by simply seeking medical consultation.

The hand-in-glove association between mental illness and addiction is nothing unfamiliar. On the surface, they might appear very distinct but in reality, they feed on each other and often victims find themselves sucked into the whirlpool of dual diagnosis without any clue of what is happening. A careful assessment is needed to establish the existence of both disorders but it is not easy to diagnose. The need of the hour is regular care from trained physicians and customized therapies to help a comorbid patient avail the benefits of top dual diagnosis treatment centers in California.

Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized dual diagnosis treatment options at its residential treatment centers to treat the person holistically. These programs are specifically designed to help addicts recover from the dual conditions through integrated interventions after a rigorous examination of the underlying health conditions. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.

If you or your loved one is suffering from dual diagnosis, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. For more information on the dual diagnosis or the best dual diagnosis treatment options closest to the Los Angeles area, get in touch with us. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the causes of dual diagnosis and most effective dual diagnosis treatment programs in the vicinity of Los Angeles. We have facilities in all major places in the country. Our dual diagnosis residential treatment centers in California are among the best in the nation.

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