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Modern Wars, Modern Ills
Date:11/11/2009

ally receive treatment and aren't sent back to the fighting.

The good news is that awareness of PTSD has increased dramatically from previous wars, and with it a better understanding of the disorder and better treatments.

"We're much more attuned to PTSD than we were n the past," Young said.

Arnold added: "Certainly we're realizing that PTSD is a reality. I don't know if we grasped that prior to Iraq and Afghanistan. We have more of an understanding of the impact of things. We didn't realize how trauma impacted us. The idea of trauma is a relatively new one in the mental health field."

And even if awareness had been better in the 1960s and '70s, there weren't any treatments to help, he said.

Now, researchers understand much better what brain processes are involved in flashbacks and other hallmarks of PTSD, said Jack Nitschke, an professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has research underway trying to identify brain differences that might explain why some people have severe PTSD while others escape relatively unscathed.

"We have learned a tremendous amount about PTSD and other anxiety disorders, the key brain regions that are involved," he said. "We're looking at particular processes involved in anxiety, in the process of anticipating bad things happening ... when people are reminded somehow that they're back in the war theater and that's leading them to shut down, not to reach out."

Certain talk therapies have been shown to ease symptoms and help people reconnect, as have some antidepressants, Young said. And there's a greater recognition of how the family can take part in healing.

"Father comes back and he's changed. We are very, very keenly aware of the important role that the family plays in the treatment of PTSD now," Young said.

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