“The Evil Hours”: PTSD Among War Veterans (And Others)

PTSD has come to mean so many things to so many people but on a certain level it boils down to one basic question: How do you live after you’ve almost died? David J. Morris, author of The Evil Hours

In The Evil Hours David J. Morris writes a “Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Besides being a former Marine and war correspondent, Morris suffers himself from PTSD. But his book is about far more than his own personal experience.

Kirkus Reviews summarizes the author’s approach:

[He] did not intend this book to be a therapeutic exercise, but he discovered that researching and writing about PTSD helped him to make sense of his own struggle with an affliction that ‘destroys the normal narrative of life’… Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, history, poetry and fiction, he offers an insightful—and never self-indulgent—overview of the ‘ghost that haunts history.’ Among many traumatic stressors—rape, natural disasters, child abuse, for example—Morris focuses most intensely on war.

How’s the mental health field doing overall? In an article in The New Yorker Morris asserts, citing certain experts,Modern psychiatry…is locked into a mindset that systematically overdiagnoses P.T.S.D. without nurturing veterans’ ability to heal themselves.”

Moreover, many programs aren’t adequately geared toward recognizing an important aspect of war-related PTSD, moral injury. David WoodHuffington Post, states that only the San Diego Naval Medical Center “routinely provides therapy designed for moral injury. Several clinicians launched the program early in 2013 after realizing that many of their PTSD patients needed a different kind of help.”

The second half of The Evil Hours is in fact about PTSD treatment.  From Kirkus Reviews:

The author summarizes current cognitive and pharmacological therapies: prolonged exposure therapy, or flooding, which reprises intense trauma; cognitive-behavioral therapy, with roots in psychotherapy; propranolol, to treat anxiety and panic; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and Zoloft; eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing; and even yoga. In his experience, Morris has found ‘alcohol, taken in moderation, is one of the best PTSD drugs ever invented.’

Key phrase: “taken in moderation.”

Where do those with war-related PTSD go for help? As many of us already know, there simply aren’t enough resources available. From Morris (The New Yorker):

Even as most Americans seem to agree that wars can be devastating to the people who fight them, the poor state of the Veterans Affairs system indicates that, as a society, we don’t feel much responsibility for such costs. A therapy group I attend at my local clinic is a fitting example: run by a rotating cast of graduate interns who are forced to bring their own office supplies, the group has dwindled recently as veterans have dropped out.

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