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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civilian Contractors

What is PTSD?

Civilian contractors hired to work in particularly dangerous parts of the world by defense contractors have been experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

Garfinkel Schwartz works with families and the individuals who are denied medical care, claims or benefits. There are few things worse than losing necessary medicine and medical care that keep the individual affected stabilized, healthy and comfortable. When an employer or an insurer cuts off the benefits, the benefits lost are protected under the Defense Base Act and under the Longshore Act.

The more quickly an attorney can be contacted, the more quickly the issue can be resolved.

How Many Civilians Have PTSD?

The question is how many civilians have been diagnosed with PTSD? There is no one government or private organization monitoring the number of cases found among civilian contractors, so there is no exact answer.

A study by the Rand Corporation in January 2014 featured in USA Today found that the number of civilians experiencing PTSD mirrors the number of military personnel with PTSD. In other words, there are many civilians who have PTSD.

However, because civilians are not undergoing exit interviews when they leave Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa, as is done in the military, it is unknown how many civilian contractors have PTSD. There are no methods in place to ask contractors who are sent home after their job ends whether they’re experiencing problems associated with PTSD.  Many are undiagnosed.

Symptoms Can Appear Quickly

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD symptoms usually develop very soon after a person has experienced a traumatic event and may appear immediately with extreme psychological distress, anxiety, anger and other personality issues.

However, for those in shock, or who may be purposely trying to suppress images, thoughts, or trying to black out the PTSD-related incidents, in these cases symptoms may not appear until months or years later.

The National Institute for Mental Health Findings

The National Institute for Mental Health found that PTSD symptoms may also come and go in individuals over a time period covering many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you or a loved one great distress, or interfere with their ability to work or have a normal home life, you or a loved one might be experiencing PTSD.

PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm against a person. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, or the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or to strangers.

PTSD can be treated with psychotherapy “talk therapy” and with medicines such as antidepressants. Early treatment is important and may help reduce long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not know that they have PTSD or do not seek treatment. This fact sheet will help you to better understand PTSD and the how it can be treated.

Genes Have a Bearing on Memory

Currently, many scientists are focusing on genes that play a role in creating fear memories. Understanding how fear memories are created may help to refine or find new interventions for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. For example, PTSD researchers have pinpointed genes that make:

  • Stathmin, a protein needed to form fear memories. In one study, mice that did not make stathmin were less likely than normal mice to “freeze,” a natural, protective response to danger, after being exposed to a fearful experience. They also showed less innate fear by exploring open spaces more willingly than normal mice.
  • GRP (gastrin-releasing peptide), a signaling chemical in the brain released during emotional events. In mice, GRP seems to help control the fear response, and lack of GRP may lead to the creation of greater and more lasting memories of fear.
  • Researchers have also found a version of the 5-HTTLPR gene, which controls levels of serotonin — a brain chemical related to mood-that appears to fuel the fear response. Like other mental disorders, it is likely that many genes with small effects are at work in PTSD.

The good news is that MIT recently made a discovery identifying the location where negative fear memory is located in the brain. With this new information, bad or painful memories may be able to be minimized with medications.

The findings, described in  Aug. 27 issue of Nature, demonstrated that brain circuit links emotional memory. The brain circuit controls certain memories based on how memories become linked with positive or negative emotions.

Neuronal circuit connecting the hippocampus and the amygdala plays a critical role in associating emotion with memory. This research may help to develop drugs to help treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers say.

People can experience PTSD with many kinds of symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into categories:

1. Re-Experiencing Symptoms

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like:
  • Racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civilian Contractors

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

The National Center for PTSD has developed a wide range of methods for caring for loved ones with PTSD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and drug therapy are options for ongoing treatment and caring for loved ones who have come home from overseas with no idea for discovery.

The entire Garfinkel Schwartz staff is very familiar with PTSD and has special compassion for the plight that individuals and family members have had to endure. Caring for the person whose mind is struggling to forget what happened overseas as civilian contractors is not easy. Being able to help others experiencing horrible PTSD issues is as rewarding and as simple as asking for answers to questions about the Defense Base Act law.