The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

However, an article published by LiveScience reports how there is a new link between PTSD in veterans and an onset of dementia. The article, titled “Traumatized Vets Face Higher Dementia Risk”, reports that according to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, “30 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 12 percent to 20 percent of Iraq War veterans have it”. Contrastingly, those veterans who did not have PTSD had only a 4.5 percent chance of developing dementia.

In order to determine an exact cause-and-effect pattern between the two mental disorders, psychiatrist Dr. Salah Qureshi says that it would be interesting to see if rates of dementia would decrease if the rates of PTSD also decreased.

However, since about 20% of veterans suffer from PTSD today (and the numbers will surely climb as more and more soldiers return from the United States’ current combat efforts), it will be difficult to monitor this pattern. However, noticing a spike in dementia coupled with a spike in PTSD statistics would still abide by Dr. Quershi’s advice.

Unfortunately, there is neither a cure for PTSD or dementia, so veterans who suffer from either or both are subjected to various forms of psychological care that involves talk-therapy and an overload of prescription medication.

However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.