A new report criticizes the Army’s new, stricter guidelines for determining post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers who are suffering.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is on the rise, with a whopping 200,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from the disorder. It has become so widespread, in fact, that the military stepped up efforts to educate doctors and servicemen about the disorder, in effort to make sure that those with PTSD receive the appropriate treatment. But with so many new cases surfacing, the Army is now issuing a more strict set of new guidelines for doctors to follow when diagnosing PTSD.
Not everyone is on board with the new policy, though. The new guidelines were criticized in a 17-page document from the Army Surgeon General’s Office, reported by the Seattle Times. The article specifically points out — and discredits — a handful of screening tests for PTSD that are widely used by military clinicians to diagnose a condition estimated to afflict at least 200,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
The Army Surgeon General finds great fault with a dense personality test popular with clinicians that ostensibly weeds out “malingerers,” as PTSD fakers are known.
Some of the questions focus on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test, with some experts saying the results are flawed. PTSD sufferers often exhibit anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks and depression — all of which, some doctors believe, can be discounted under the test.
“The report rejects the view that a patient’s response to hundreds of written test questions can determine if a soldier is faking symptoms,” the Seattle Times summarized. Where PTSD is concerned, that’s especially true. The condition is accompanied by symptoms that can vary widely from patient to patient. Some are hyperactive, others are lethargic; some exhibit frenetic rage while others are simply sullen and depressed.
Those tests were the standard of care at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, one of the military’s largest medical installations. It’s also home to a forensic psychiatry team tasked with deciding whether soldiers diagnosed with PTSD were sick enough to qualify for medical retirement. In March, the Army launched an investigation of the Madigan team after Madigan’s screening procedures allegedly reversed 300 of the PTSD diagnoses among soldiers being evaluated. Madigan isn’t the only screening facility where this is happening, though.
The Surgeon General’s attempts at strengthening its PTSD diagnostic tactics might come as a relief to veterans. But they might also be more than a little too late.
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