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by Kevin Coupe

There is a fascinating story from Bloomberg about how US military psychiatrists continue to grapple with the causes, effects and potential treatments for post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which may afflict as many as 20 percent of the more than two million soldiers returning home from armed combat in the Middle East since 2001.

Experts say that part of the problem is that there is no consistent diagnosis for PTSD, which makes it hard to come up with a consistent set of tools which which to treat it. “In an effort to change that, the military says it’s trying to find cases sooner by embedding therapists in combat units and spending $40 million to study 20 treatments, some of which may work within weeks. Among them is a therapy that sends some troops on a 45-minute trip through a Wal-Mart store.”

That’s right. Walmart stores - as well as other big box stores and other high traffic areas such as movie theaters and restaurants - tend to be big and noisy and, to someone suffering from PTSD, potentially filled with dangerous people. According to the story, “Visiting Wal-Mart or another crowded spot is part of a treatment for PTSD called prolonged exposure therapy that encourages a patient to recount traumatic events that cause flashbacks ... The benefits of 10 such therapeutic sessions within either two or eight weeks are being studied, and the early results suggest the treatments are so effective that some active-duty military personnel have been able to return to war zones.”

Not surprisingly, a spokesman for Walmart had no comment on the use of the company’s stores by military psychiatrists.
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