More options, less stigma: the evolution of PTSD treatment

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News 12 First at Five / March 8, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most serious issues facing our nation's military, but sadly, a lot of service members don't get help. Veterans and professionals agree - denial is one of the main reasons people are not seeking proper treatment.

But now, there are more options than ever before, with active research to figure out how to fight it.

"If I had to do it again I would," said veteran Joe Andrew.

Like many veterans, he is proud of his service and proud of his country. Like many combat veterans, he also has some form of PTSD.

"I've seen some stuff that some people wouldn't imagine seeing," he said.

It's been years since Andrews served, but he remembers the first trigger after coming home.

"Maybe about four days [after]. We had a severe thunderstorm, and just the thunder and lightning set it off, and I was looking to hide," he recalled.

"People can be treated, and a lot of people improve or even remit totally," said Dr. Nagy Youssef, a psychiatrist with AU Health. He studies mood disorders, and he used to work for the VA.

As the military community grows is our area, he says there's help, with less of a stigma now than before.

"People can treat it just like diabetes or high blood pressure," said Youssef, "It's important to view it like that."

He says research is moving forward, and people who react differently can benefit.

"A lot of people would be exposed to the trauma, but the majority don't get PTSD," he said, "We did some studies trying to understand why people who have higher resilience have higher resilience, and how can we use that to help other people with PTSD."

He says that research is actively ongoing.

As Fort Gordon moves into the future - away from boots on the ground, and into cyberspace - Andrews says it's important to remember PTSD can be a lifelong struggle, and past deployments may not feel like they're an ocean away.

"They are here giving us directions and intel on certain situations," he said, "And sometimes it doesn't pan out like the way we'd all like it to be."

Officials tell News 12 a diagnosis of PTSD does not cancel your military clearance. They do say it could be suspended if you are being evaluated, but not canceled.