PTSD, TBI Or Both?
May 15, 2007
One challenge that military healthcare providers are facing with soldiers returning from Iraq, is the challenge of differentiating between PTSD and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Both can have similar symptoms, so at times, it can make distinguishing between the two very difficult. Both are signature problems that are seen coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past, it was thought that one could not suffer from both PTSD and TBI. While that is normally true in the general population, however with the types of situations our troops are faced with and the injuries that they are succeptible to, it is a common to see both together in military personnel returning from the warzone.
PTSD is an emotional injury in response to a traumatic event. Many of the symptoms are emotional in nature. However, there are a variety of cognitive problems as well. Problems such as forgetfulness, inattention, a sense of being overwhelmed with even very simple tasks and clouded thinking. These symptoms can also been seen in patients who experienced a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. MTBI results from a relatively mild blow to the head that causes just enough of a physical injury that normal brain functions of memory, attention, mental organization and logical thinking can be compromised. Thus making it difficult at times for the healthcare provider to be able to distinguish the difference. Especially when the person may in fact be suffering from PTSD, but has also suffered from a blow to the head.
One thing that can help the healthcare provider is having a full and complete history of the event that caused injury. Amnesia about the event that caused the injury, is one of the key diagnostic criteria for a brain injury of any kind. With our troops, many seeing traumatic situations multiple times and the possibility of them receiving a TBI as well, it’s often that healthcare providers are seeing both PTSD and TBI concurrently, in soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military healthcare providers are screening for PTSD as soon as a soldier sets foot back in the US. There are additional screenings scheduled at 3 and 6 months post redeployment. This is vital, due to the fact that many times, PTSD may have a delayed onset. I foresee that due to so many soldiers being exposed to blasts in these areas of conflict that healthcare providers will be screening for both.
The military is very cognizant of these two medical problems, as well as the fact that both can be present at the same time, and is proactively putting resources in place at each military base, to ensure that these soldiers don’t fall through the cracks and that they receive the treatment that they need. For more information on PTSD and TBI, please visit the websites.