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by Brittany Yap, associate editor


With all of these soldiers returning home, some family members worry about the reintegration of their soldiers into the civilian world and into their every- day life. Along with those adjustments that need to be made, soldiers returning who have spent a lot of time in a combat zone are prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Psychologists and software designers are testing virtual reality simulations to see if these can help traumatized vets. According to an April 24 article in HealthDay, their goal is to treat PTSD patients by exposing them to video game-like scenarios of warfare. They are confident that virtual reality will help veterans of war because of the success they had with treating patients with phobias.

They hope to help war veterans deal with PTSD right after they get back from war, not waiting until 10 or 20 years later. Virtual reality allows psychologists to expose their patients to what they are afraid of, in the safe environment of a medical office.

Psychologist Skip Rizzo, in an article in Day to Day, dated Aug. 19, quote: “The soldier being treated wears VR goggles and headphones. Using a tablet-based interface, a therapist can activate or remove the sounds of gunshots or the sight of smoke, depending on a patient’s reaction. The idea is to re-introduce the patients to the experiences that triggered the trauma, gradually, until the memory no longer incapacitates them.”

The Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego claims that virtual reality helps 92 percent of phobia patients reach the goal they’ve set for themselves, which may be controlling the phobia or totally ridding themselves of it. Because of this, researchers see no reason why it couldn’t help war veterans as well.

According to The National Center for PTSD, ongoing reactions to war-zone fear, or helplessness, are connected to post-traumatic stress and can include: nightmares or difficulty sleeping, unwanted distressing memories, anxiety and panic, irritability and anger, emotional numbing or lose of interest in activities and people, and problems with alcohol and drug abuse.

According to Anthony, all soldiers returning from Iraq have to go through a demobilization process where they will have medical check ups, paperwork to fill out, as well as a survey to complete. The survey will help doctors screen soldiers who may be having signs of PTSD. From there, the military can get soldiers the help they need. Right now, the military uses counseling to treat PTSD patients.
“ Family members have to be watchful for any kind of warning signs,” said Anthony, referring to the symptoms listed above. “It’s not wrong to ask for help with readjusting.”

He also reminded families and the community that these soldiers have been in combat environments almost continuously for a year.

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