February 2011 Archives

First Person Views On PTSD

An article I read over the course of this week spoke of the way war veterans with PTSD see themselves. The combat vet mentioned in the article, who has suffered from PTSD for several decades, was asked what his "biggest problem right now" was. The vet was then given drawing implements with which to answer the question. Afterwards, when asked to describe what he drew, and the combat vet (his name was never given) said, "my biggest problem? It's that I'm an exploding ball of hate...on the inside."

I find it incredibly sad that these people feel this way about themselves due to the trauma of war, especially to have been retired from combat for the last forty years. That's a rather lengthy amount of time to feel this way about oneself. I think this article is particularly important in the understanding of how victims of PTSD feel towards themselves. It gives real, concrete examples from a first person point of view. Near the end of the article, there is also second image from the vet- a drawing of himself made the same day that he referred to himself as an "exploding ball of hate" that shows a simplistic crayon drawing of himself as half a ball of hate, and half what appears to be rays of sunshine. The image shows a clear line between good and bad, light and dark.

The article also talks about Marcus Luttrell, a second combat veteran who is also experiencing and dealing with PTSD. Luttrell's yellow Labrador retriever, no doubt given to him to assist him in dealing with his condition, was murdered outside of his house in cold blood by a few local kids for a "pointless thrill." The shooting death of Luttrell's lab has since led to a major set back in his recovery- go figure. There is small consolation in this case, however, including a 40-mile high-speed chase in which Luttrell (with the help of the police) captured the perpetrators.
Furthermore, the article addresses the way human beings in the military are broken down and re-trained to kill. It addresses the way killing can become a horrible addictive high for these combat vets, and the amount of contempt they have for themselves relating to this.

However, the article goes on to say our first-featured vet has since been progressing. I assume that this is partly because of art therapy, as it was mentioned a few times in the article that the veteran was drawing. Although this article featured less about art therapy and more about PTSD, it was nonetheless helpful in my understanding of PTSD, which I feel is an essential point in understanding it's treatment.

The article can be found at this address:

Art Expression for PTSD

Recently, I read an article on art therapy for patients suffering the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the article, the use of art therapy has been seriously under-studied in this area, and I must say that I agree. However, before discussing the article, I feel it is necessary to understand what, exactly, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is. As stated by Merriam-Webster, PTSD is "A psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressful event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or natural disaster) that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flash-backs, recurring nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event." Thus, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is fairly common in those who have served in the military and seen war.

The article said that although the effects of art therapy have not been studied extensively here, but that it, "Shows promise as a means of treating hard-to-treat symptoms of combat-related PTSD," and goes on to describe the symptoms. These consist of avoidance as well as emotional numbing, and also treat the underlying issue: the psychological situation from which these issues manifest.

The actual treatment consists of group treatment, drama therapy, community service, anger management, and journaling that occur in three stages. It is also recommended that the therapists performing this receive specialized training in trauma intervention, as well as PTSD theory.

On another note, the article also said that although PTSD was not recognized as something that could actually be diagnosed until 1980, art expression to treat the condition began to surface in the late 70's. The use of art expression has been used in multiple ways to treat PTSD. These include the use of drawing, mainly, to assist patients in the expression of their experiences, as a way to communicate difficult details of the event, a way to master and take control of one's feelings, and to help survivors recall, re-enact, and recover from these events. According the research listed in the article, the use of this treatment for PTSD helps reduce immediate symptoms and assist in the organization of traumatic memories in a way that using words alone can not. Art expression helps the survivor to relax and build self-esteem while rehabilitating social skills and externalizing the memories.

It appears that group therapy is the form most recommended. I would assume this to be because a group setting facilitates the understanding that the patient is not alone, and that many others are also working to understand and over-come PTSD. I have found this article to be incredibly informative in my research, and it also lists many others that look as though they, too, will help.

The article I have read can be found here: http://www.internationalarttherapy.org/militarytrauma.html
(The top-most link, but again, the others seem intriguing as well.)

Art Therapy

My name is Taylor Twite. The purpose of this blog is to explore the effects of art therapy and to keep track of my own thoughts and research on it.

I would like to find out how art therapy is being used. I would also like to know who an ideal candidate is for this type of rehabilitation, and how effective art therapy really is. I am at this time uncertain of what direction this research will take, but I am very interested in this up-and-coming type of therapy.

I think it is interesting that art therapy is being used to help soldiers and other military-trained people who have gone through traumatic events, because these people are trained to keep calm and not share their emotion, which is exactly what art therapy is all about. I am hoping I will be able to find further information about this and other types of art therapy.

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