DCoE Blog

  • Coping with Flashbacks

    Some service members with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have flashbacks that can limit their quality of life. The Real Warriors campaign shares tools and valuable information for dealing with this particular hurdle of PTSD:

    Flashbacks happen when you feel like you are reliving a traumatic experience or memory. They can occur day or night, and can occur recently or even years after the event. You may remember the entire event or only details such as sounds and smells.

    Flashbacks can occur in veterans who have experienced a traumatic event. While not always, flashbacks are often a symptom of PTSD. They can occur as a result of combat, a training accident, sexual trauma or other traumatic events.

  • ICYMI: Hot-topic Blogs of 2016

    Throughout 2016, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), National Center for Telehealth and Technology, AfterDeployment, Real Warriors Campaign and A Head for the Future addressed many issues related to psychological health and traumatic brain injury on their respective blogs.

    These articles featured ways to prevent, recognize and treat depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or traumatic brain injury (TBI); tips for better sleep; how to manage sports injuries; and more.

  • Accepting Emotions Helps PTSD Recovery, Military Medical Expert Says
    DoD photo by Sidney R. Hinds III

    Avoiding unwanted memories and emotions can stifle recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Dr. Richard Stoltz, deputy director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE).

    Dissociation related to trauma looks different for each person, Stoltz told attendees at the Society of Federal Health Professionals (AMSUS) conference Nov. 29. Some PTSD survivors repress a memory so much that they don’t remember the trauma at all. Others actively think of something else the moment they begin to remember traumatic events. Dissociation also means that people may shut down mentally or emotionally when recalling a trauma so that they numb the feelings associated with it.

    These and other coping strategies are actually counterproductive in recovery, Stoltz explained. Blocking out feelings may help someone perform better or even survive during an emergency or combat situation. However, continuing to block the event or the feelings afterward is harmful.

    “If you’ve gone through a traumatic situation, when you’re back in a safe place, you need to figure out when you’re going to consciously get in touch with your feelings about it,” Stoltz said.

  • Tips from Real Warriors: What to Expect in Therapy
    A mental health specialist provides triage to a soldier during a behavioral health assessment.
    U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Calvert

    Most of us are familiar with a cartoon depiction of what therapy looks like: a person on a couch sharing personal fears to a serious looking provider who sits in a chair with a notepad analyzing every word. If this is your only experience of what therapy is, it can seem quite daunting! One barrier to seeking treatment for a treatable psychological health condition can be fear of the unknown. A recent article by Real Warriors shares tips on how to get ready for your first appointment, and what to expect during the process.

    Thinking about attending a therapy session for the first time might make you feel uncomfortable. You may think seeking care will make you look weak or others will lose confidence in your abilities. Know that reaching out is a sign of strength. Seeking care early can lead to positive outcomes that benefit you, your family and your unit.

  • 4 Tips to End Numbness and Reconnect with Your Emotions
    Kandahar Independence 7.5K Run Kicks Off Holiday For Deployed Servicemembers [Image 6 Of 9]
    U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Luke Talbot

    Feeling emotionally numb or disconnected from those close to you, or from life in general, is a common symptom of some psychological health conditions. If you feel emotional numbness, there are actions you can take to improve your emotional well-being and your psychological health. Below are four tips that may help:

    • Start with your doctors. Your family doctor can help you identify any physical issue that may cause you emotional distress. You can also reach out to a psychological health care provider such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or social worker to learn techniques you can use to bring your feelings back. For more information on what to ask a psychological health care provider, visit the Real Warriors Campaign website.
    • Talk to those you trust. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your family, friends or chaplain may help you find the motivation you need to make changes that will improve your mood and feelings. You can also reach out to the DCoE Outreach Center, available day or night. Call 866-966-1020, email resources@dcoeoutreach.org or live chat with a resource expert.
  • Signs of Respect: Support Veterans with PTSD this Fourth of July
    Read the full story: Signs of Respect: Support Veterans with PTSD this Fourth of July
    Military members and their families watch a fireworks display during a Fourth of July celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Troutman)

    From the top of a hill in my northwest neighborhood in the District of Columbia, you can see the U.S. Capitol in the distance. On the Fourth of July, many of my neighbors gather here as the sun sets to watch the national fireworks display.

    The dome of the Capitol, illuminated beneath the fireworks’ spectacular bursts of color, reminds us why we do this every year — our freedom, the fight for it and the lasting need to defend it.

    PTSD and Fireworks

    For days before and after the official celebration, spontaneous neighborhood festivities abound. Sparklers amuse children. Firecrackers and roman candles entertain teenagers and adults. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder linger in the summer heat, blending with the smell of backyard barbecue.

    Although patriotic in spirit, impromptu fireworks do not ignite universal delight. These unexpected explosions cause some service members and combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to experience overwhelming anxiety.