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May 21st, 2009
12:12 PM ET
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Ali

    @ AJ – have you ever suffered from PTSD? Secondly, your attacks on Dr. Gupta for his "lack of empathy" are exactly what you are referring to...lack of empathy. Dr. Gupta has done a great deal of good work in the world of medicine.

    As a sufferer of PTSD I can confirm that some symptoms are always there (smells, nightmares, reminders). Yes, some symptoms improve and go away (deep depression, anxiety, irritability). However, I think Dr. Gupta and others who have commented on this post, mean to communicate that more research is needed to combat this illness. For example, I would LOVE to not have "reminders" or "flashbacks" when i come across a certain smell. Our soldiers experience the same thing when smelling gun power/etc. The brain is intricate and complicated, let's be positive while we are finding ways to cure ALL symptoms of PTSD.

    January 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  2. aj

    This is the most moronic response I have ever heard regarding mental health. Sanjay shows absolutely no empathy for the sufferers of PTSD – those people who would have the most interest in this question – in his totally negative response, which is devoid of hope.

    Way to give patients a constructive way of moving forward!

    You know, in the treatment of mental health issues, such as PTSD, a big part of it is a positive attitude that it can be tackled.

    Your video is going to discourage many people who have PTSD not to seek treatment, because – why get treatment if it can't be treated??

    Everybody should know that according to expert, credible sources such as the National Center for PTSD
    there are effective treatments for PTSD, and your symptoms can get a lot better or go away completely. But effective treatment first means getting treatment!

    Sanjay does not strike me as a mental health expert at all, but rather a journalist who wants to provide a no-nonsense, no-feeling answer.

    (I am a journalist, by the way, and I know how journalists way often cannot relate to the people they are writing for or about. It is also a job not about empathy, but about "information." Ha.)

    If you want to be a good person, and/or a good doctor, learn to have some empathy/sympathy for those you are talking to!

    Journalists too often do not relate to/empathize with their audiences and therefore do not get to the most basic question that many people ask when reading about anything from poverty and natural disasters to personal health: what is the expert word on what I can do?

    This should be a no-brainer question on questions of personal health.

    January 26, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  3. Barry

    Very interesting and informative. Thank you.

    December 15, 2009 at 5:16 am |
  4. ali

    Shane...I would encourage you to get some counseling, especially if are at risk of losing your fiance. PTSD symptoms can/may improve with help.
    Yes, certain things will always trigger memories/nightmares...however with help, the symptoms/responses can be less severe.

    God Bless and thank you so much for your service to our country.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  5. shane

    i spent some time in the military, not long, but call me weak if you will guys n girls, but i had a "bump" with a terror cell and saw my childhood freind die, certain things trigger flash backs i always dream of it in a bad way....i only saw this 2 hours of contact but it haunts me to this day im afraid to seek help, im trying to live with it but my fiance is starting to lose hope and is thinking of leaving me, ptsd is and always will be the hardest thing i'll ever have to learn to live with

    September 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  6. Ali

    I agree that PTSD, especially due to prolonged trauma, never truly goes away. I know rape victims who seem to respond well to EMDR. However, having been exposed to years of abuse as a young child, I am still haunted by nightmares, easily startled and certain smells bring me right back to the trauma/age I was when it happened. I don't think PTSD ever truly "goes away". Medications and therapy can help relieve symptoms but the memories are always there. I would like to see research dedicated to linking "smells" to a certain event/trauma and see how the brain and other senses store these memories of traumatic events.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  7. Hmm

    I have to say I agree it never goes away. It becomes manageable for some people, and they may have better tools to deal with traumatic reminders, but there are also many sources of the disorder. I was involved with a victim of childhood abuse and it was pure hell. The dissociation, fits of rage, and other symptoms were ever present. I don't think anyone who has suffered from PTSD can say when they're dissociating or not. For sufferers of long-term abuse, it can become an automatic response mechanism for any sort of stress. The funtioning of their memory is altered. I can cause hypothyroidism, allergies, and somatic behavior.
    There's a huge difference between dealing with trauma from a one-time event like a crash, and long-term, on-going trauma which literally alters the functioning of the brain. Memories of traumatic events are stored differently and there's no magical way of making someone assimilate them into their cognitive memory.
    Not only does it affect those suffering from PTSD, but those around them as well. In severe cases it mimics BPD and if you've seen the movie Fatal Attraction, then you can see, literally, what kind of hell can come with it.
    So for minor cases like getting over a car accident, I would agree it can be overcome to a great extent. In cases of long-term abuse, you'll never convince me it can be "cured". Sorry, but I've been in the middle of it and despite how "cured" the woman thought she was, she literally tried to destroy my life and thought her actions were perfectly normal, and had no clue when she was dissociating.
    And yes, I've experienced a traumatic episode at the age of 6 involving horses. It was a one time event and I wasn't even injured, but despite my daily involvement with them and constant riding, there are still times I feel mild anxiety. It's what I do in those situations and how I manage it that makes a difference.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  8. john

    I work in a busy ED and see more trauma in a week then most people see in a lifetime. I have done this for 22 years. PTSD happens, but you learn how to deal with it and can move on. Insight into PTSD has helped me deal with it. Still, I have problems when toddlers die. However, I figure thats a good thing. There are things you should never get used.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  9. Syd

    Thank you for all who comment, and for Dr. Gupta who brings this issue a little more into the open. My first "aha!" moment that I, too, had symptoms of PTSD, was when I heard an army veteran being intereviewed on a CBC-radio night show, here in Canada. When he spoke about his symptoms, I began to understand that there was a reason for why, I was no longer the person I used to be. That aha! moment happened a few years before discovery of the medical error. I had been given a slight overdose of thyroid medication by a Toronto endocrinologist. And had the error been detected in good time, I doubt there would have been damage. Unfortunatly, it took 8 years before I changed family physicians, and to have my thyroid level normalized after my umpteen lab reports were properly read. Such a simple solution! And yet, the change did not reverse the damages - physically, mentally and emotionally. Today, I am in my 5th year of recovery, and I note some improvements, largely as a result of correcting the gastro damages with more appropriate nutrition. Mentally, as of this year, I can finally handle the idea of visiting an unfamiliar city, whereas before, I would try to avoid staying in them, opting for more tranquil routes in my travels. Emotionally, I don't know if I'll ever get over the irresponsible medical care I received for almost a decade. But I am willing to try any of the techniques mentioned on this board. Thank you, all, again.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  10. Laurie Newby

    PTSD confuses so many people in our large nation simply because so many people have suffered in their lives and try to equate their experiences (Mom's Death; a terrible accident) with the extreme and continuous trauma experienced by those with PTSD. While many people are capable of overcoming their traumatic memories for a time (I personally blocked out 4 years of abuse for 40 years) we should recognize that this condition can exist without the obvious presentationof symptoms. As for World War II victims, they belonged to a generation that was taught stoicism and feared baring their souls, lest their peers think them weak. My Grandfather, who fought for the Canadians in the Great War (WWI). He was the cook, so his fellows tried to make sure he was fairly safe, but the reality of those hellish trenches always came back. He never discussed his war years with my grandmother, mother and aunts. He did, however, spend every evening after work down at the "Beer Garden." When Grandma wanted him home, she sent my Mom to collect him. When this little girl (6-7-8-9) would enter, she sometimes heard, "Hush, she doesn't need to hear this." My grandfather's experiences caught up with him and he was hospitalized. My grandmother was shocked to learn that he had been gassed and lost a lung in the war. For my Grandfather, he finally escaped PTSD by dying as a result of wounds he suffered 20 years earlier. Within the 20th century, we sent many young men (and a number of females, especially nurses) into a hell the general population could never understand. But the impact on returning warriors has always been recognized by their comrades, from Homer's "Iliad" to today's men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether victims of horrendous abuse, firefighters from 9/11 or returning soldiers, these men and women deserve respect and understanding that this condition is real - it lives inside its victims – it wakes victims in the night from the horror of a rembered action or individual – it leaves people "different" and those changes friends and family. For many, it is easier to stay inside (avoiding crowds & loud noises), to jump at loud noises and to keep their guard up at all times. We survivors who now experience PTSD still need to fight the original trauma, while acquaintences stop including you in group activities, when fewer "friends" come by the house until they finally stop visiting . . .

    June 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Terry

    Wow Lulu, you have the wrong end of the stick. I'm happy for your family that your father survived his WWII combat experience and did not come home with PTSD - or "battle fatigue" or "shell shock" as it was known then and after WWI. My own father was not so fortunate. An Army Air Corp navigator, he was shot down on his 49th mission over Europe. He survived the parachute drop but landed behind German lines. He was captured and spent the last 18 months of the war in a German POW camp. Liberated by the Soviets, he and his fellow ex-prisoners walked to Brittany where they were finally taken to the U.K. and hospitalized. My father was briefly hospitalized for battle fatigue, then discharged with paperwork that declared him cured. Upon returning home he was a different man (I'm told by my many aunts and uncles). I know from personal experience that my father was a raging alcoholic for the rest of his short life. He killed himself at age 60 by jumping in front of a speeding car. One thing I can say...he was not a whiner. Just like you, Lulu, he sneered at returning Vietnam vets who complained of PTSD. I wish he had been more of a whiner; he might still be alive.

    June 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  12. J Perry


    Just because veterans of older wars don't discuss it, doesn't mean they don't live with it. I have a great uncle who served as a marine in Vietnam, and while he seems like a very happy, vibrant man, certain noises cause an inexplicable change in his physical demeanor and you can see in his eyes its like he's being ripped back through time. We don't question when he screams in the middle of the night; we already know the demon he's dealing with.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Lulu

    I am interested in hearing more about this type of disability as pertaining to veterans. My father served in WWII, second day Normandy invasion,saw horrific injuries and was constantly under attack for many months, yet he has no post traumatic issues. Why do current vets have this condition and not older vets? I can't think of one WWII vet I know that has this condition. They usually never talk about the war, or else talk about the places they served, friends they made, etc. Why is this condition primarily diagnosed for the baby boomers of the USA? I am in no way dismissing this disorder but it seems like we have become a nation of whiners. EVERYONE has their issues and problems.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  14. don corpier

    i am a viet nam vet 1968 USMC. i have spent the last 40 years in misery. it got progressively worse in the last 10 years. for the last 30 years i was diagnosed as being being severely depressed, A.D.D and bipolar. lots of drugs etc. ptsd was briefly mentioned on my mental health charts. finally things began to come together. i spent 6 months in federal prison and 2 years in the VA ptsd group sessions. that was the only way that i would be put back into society. one thing i have learned is that ptsd does not go away. if not treated it will consume your life. there is no cure but you can learn how to deal with it. i still lose control and become quite aggressive on rare occasions. there are triggers such as choppers, lawn mowers, gun shots and a multitude of other things that will set me off. i have to work every day to control my anger etc. for all of you folks that suffer from ptsd-get help and follow the treatment plan. it is the only way you will live close to a normal life.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  15. Stuart

    Trust me when I say that PTSD NEVER goes away. You can make the memories fade/dissipate with treatment, but you will not be out of the woods. This is coming from a retired cop of 21 years in South Africa.

    June 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  16. Irso

    Saying PTSD is permanent and uncurable is completely and totally irresponsible and inaccurate. Taking away hope from people based on the flimsiest of evidence boggles my mind. There is never an appropriate time for a Dr. to say there is no hope, even if it is limited. Yes, it is fair to say that recovery is difficult, that most people don't find their way to recovery. But to say it is hopeless is nonsense. I have completely and totally recovered from severe PTSD due to child abuse, and in my personal life, not second hand accounts, I have seen the same methods create complete, total recovery in people who had it worse than me. Yes, I was in my late 30s before I recovered, and I suffered and caused suffering for others all that time.. but when it was gone, it was gone and I don't fear the night any more. No more night terrors and someone can touch my shoulder without my legs collapsing under me. I don't even flinch. I can easily think about and discuss in detail the events which caused my problem to begin with, and while not happy memories by any means or anything I want to dwell on, they do not trigger panic attacks, fits of rage, depression or any of what used to happen. Those events no longer cause me any discomfort other than I sometimes feel vaguely sorry for myself... like everyone else does. PTSD is curable, absolutely. Don't give up hope!

    June 5, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  17. Iraq Vet

    I served two tours in Iraq and have been diagnosed with PTSD...I know other veterans from previous wars that still suffer from PTSD. I am happy that some people have recovered from this syndrome, but I think it really depends on the severity and length of the trauma experienced. Having to go to war for an extended period of time, seeing friends get killed in horrific ways, and experiencing the sheer terror of combat has lasting consequences. I would hope to recover from PTSD because it has ruined my marriage and a lot more; but as time has gone by I am realizing that this is something I have to learn to live with.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  18. Marty

    I developed classic symptoms of PTSD following a serious auto accident. Traditional therapy helped some, but I still had trouble sleeping, driving, and was chronically depressed. Someone suggested EMDR and after 6 visits, I feel I'm as close to cured as possible. I can now drive anywhere and though I am hyper vigilent, it is not disabling as the PTSD was. My depression is mostly gone and all the other symptoms are gone.

    Perhaps you cannot ever completely be rid of PTSD, however, you can do things, like EMDR, that help significantly. I can't recommend it enough.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  19. Dawn

    As a former military nurse caring for those with severe war injuries & other trauma (often CNS), I had nightmares in which I would awaken everyone but myself with screams. These continued even years after I left the service, altho less frequently. Later an eval by a civilian psychologist found I was not impaired enough to make PTSD diagnosis. At that time I was 20-25 years removed & could still recall first & last names of many of those patients. I did have several EMDR sessions (the science is still out on this rx; mostly case studies in med lit). I believe many of us working acute care have some degree of PTSD & would probably not be fully human if we didn't.

    There is MD in Chicago area doing ? nerve block that purportedly relieves symptoms in some, as well as use of Inderal to block memory of trauma. With the numbers of vets returning from current wars, many already with closed head injuries, let's hope we get good clinical data soon enough to provide them much needed assist.

    June 4, 2009 at 2:02 am |
  20. Charlie Erickson

    I was a battered child and with my tours in Viet Nam, coupled with no care for 40+ years, I possibly have irreparable damage. I have almost nightly dreams of being chased, captured, traumatized, and even killed on a few occasions. Being around really loud people is extremely disturbing, and I jump at sudden unexpected noises; especially loud ones. I'm hyper aware, have intrusive memories, flashbacks, and I'm prone to anxiety and panic attacks. I have a permanent ringing in the ears and I can't fall asleep in silence. I must have a TV, radio, or sound machine on. I did not know help was available until mid 2004. I've been in two PTSD in-patient programs (for a total of six months), at two VA Medical Centers. I've just recently started in a grief group, and I'm seeing a Psychologist (PhD) for one on one sessions, concerning my dreams and other things.

    I had to sell my business and it helped to ruin two marriages. From everything I know of PTSD, I does not go away. It can become more manageable though. One of the most important things concerning PTSD, is to remove the stigma attached to it.


    June 2, 2009 at 12:23 am |
  21. dnsmith

    As Dr Gupta says, PTSD never completely goes away. There are periods of moderation of symptoms, sometimes like it is gone forever. But then something happens: a sound, a smell, a scene in a movie, and bam, here we go again with the cold sweats, bad dreams, jumping at even the tiniest unexpected sound or event. Medication helps. EMDR and other individual and combined psychotherapy procedures help. Over the years and after a lot of work the day to day symptoms subside. It has been 43 years since the primary incident which brought on my PTSD. Unfortunately this one incident was multiplied by 2 more tours in Vietnam. What was strange at first was, the symptoms did not occur immediately, not until I left the service and tried to resume normal civilian life. As a result I didn't seek treatment until several years and a somewhat "hardening" of the shell around the nut I call my demon. Hopefully more time will help. I will not hold my breath.

    June 1, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  22. Jeannie

    As a CranioSacral Therapy Practitioner, I would invite you to evaluate the most positive effects of Craniosacral Therapy (CST) and SomatoEmotional Release (SER) on record at the Upledger Institute in Florida. They did a great study with Viet Nam vets.
    The effects of these most gentle release techniques as developed by Dr. John Upledger can be amazing, and seem permanent.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  23. Vicki Corich Nenner

    As a former military nurse, my PTSD stems from caring for battle casualties for 4 years during during the Vietnam war. Sometimes I can still smell the particular odor of infected wounds when I talk about changing dressings and cleaning wounds back then.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  24. hal

    My PSTD stems from what I had to do and see at the Pentagon on 9/11 (I am a retired career AF officer). I went through 4 different therapists, including one who used EMDR. None of this helped, and the symptoms (in my case mostly limited to nightly bad dreams and a dislike of loud noises and big crowds). I do agree that for most folks, the symptoms never truly go away. I am delighted to see the above comments from some who have beaten the condition, but I fear such cases are a minority of PTSD subjects. I hope I'm wrong, actually.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  25. b. short

    My son is adopted and was severely abused. He had flashbacks to age 1 1/2 and being burned with a cigarette. Everytime he had this particular flashback he would wake up and lost the entire times table and many other things he knew. He might not be able to remember a cursive S or W. You didn't know what he would lose, just the entire times table. 7 times, I had to restart at 0x0=.... EMDR thereapy resolved his flashbacks. He had many sessions – some 2 hours long and had to proceed progressively by age to resolve the flashbacks. EMDR therapy saved his life. At age 21 he has been diagnosed with PDD,nos – but his PTSD is considered resolved!!!!

    May 27, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  26. mack tn

    EMDR is not for everybody. Trauma is a wound that never heals b ut that one tries to live with.

    May 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  27. Jim

    What is PSTD?

    May 26, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  28. Joy

    Dr. Gupta,
    Thanks for all of your commentary – I'm a fan of yours. However, I disagree with your notion that PSTD can not go away. As a kid I suffered trauma and suffered through most of my life with vivid memories and recollections. My "talk" therapist practices EMDR – it's done wonders for me. No longer do I live and relive episodes. I can remember them, but now they live in my past.

    Please look into EMDR. You'll do your clients a favor.
    Joy, Connecticut

    May 22, 2009 at 8:42 am |