Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Difficulties of Diagnosing PTSD and What to Do About It

Leif took more photos of himself than he did of anything else. I sometimes wonder about this. He took few pictures of his friends. He photographed his wife and some of the women he dated, but not all of them. He took pictures of his vehicles, but not much else, after he grew up. As a teen he photographed cool cars and our cat, and architecture he liked, but as an adult, his photos were overwhelmingly of him. I always photographed my sons a lot, so it wasn't that no one else was taking pictures of him. So why all the self-portraits? Was he trying to see himself, to define himself in some way?

This photo was one of a series he took when he shaved off his beard a mustache (that look didn't last long) and was dressed up to go to a job fair. He chose this one from the series as an "avatar" to use somewhere online, but wasn't using it to my knowledge at the time of his death.

In this series of photos, you can see the depressed and haunted young man that he was at that time. They are sad photos. They came to mind when I read a long and interesting article about the history of the diagnosis of PTSD and what treatment versus disability benefits might mean. If you're interested, please click HERE for "PTSD's Diagnostic Trap."

A quote from the article seems to describe Leif very well:

They called it "Post-Vietnam Syndrome," a disorder marked by "growing apathy, cynicism, alienation, depression, mistrust, and expectation of betrayal as well as an inability to concentrate, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, uprootedness, and impatience with almost any job or course of study."

Leif was never diagnosed with PTSD, though he told at least one friend he thought he might have it. It was clear that he suffered from all of these symptoms but one . . . he had no trouble concentrating, but often concentrated on things that didn't help his welfare.

Not diagnosed (I don't think he ever brought it up to his VA doctor), and not treated, Leif also did not receive any disability benefits for it, though he did for his increasingly problematic asthma. He could hold down a job, but became disillusioned and unhappy with every one he had. He once said to me that he wished he could just get a "job that didn't suck."

We hoped Leif would climb out of his depression, but he didn't. The point this article makes about the importance of treatment is paramount. I don't know what would have helped him, but I wish he'd given something a chance. Yes, he had a long series of unhappy events and tragedies in his life, but we always hoped he could overcome them.

If you know someone, military veteran or not, who suffers from these symptoms, urge them to get help.

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