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At War with PTSD

Battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Virtual Reality

Robert N. McLay, M.D., Ph.D.

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The Spartans called it The Trembler; recent history has seen it termed shell shock, combat fatigue, soldier’s heart, and Vietnam Syndrome. Whatever the name, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has always been with us. With 20 percent of the Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq exhibiting PTSD symptoms, the United States military has a strong interest in combating the condition. Navy psychiatrist Robert N. McLay has been at the forefront of these efforts. This is his story of using virtual reality to treat Service Members and Veterans with PTSD.

As a practicing psychiatrist who works…

The Spartans called it The Trembler; recent history has seen it termed shell shock, combat fatigue, soldier’s heart, and Vietnam Syndrome. Whatever the name, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has always been with us. With 20 percent of the Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq exhibiting PTSD symptoms, the United States military has a strong interest in combating the condition. Navy psychiatrist Robert N. McLay has been at the forefront of these efforts. This is his story of using virtual reality to treat Service Members and Veterans with PTSD.

As a practicing psychiatrist who works with Veterans and civilians coping with PTSD, McLay had known for years before the September 11, 2001, attacks that effective treatments for the condition were elusive. When active duty called, he met the challenge, becoming the primary investigator on PTSD treatment projects that had Service Members face the ghosts of war in a computer simulator. After using this new form of exposure therapy on the home front, McLay and his team believed they had found a promising way to work with warriors broken by combat, so in 2008 they took it to the front line in Fallujah, Iraq, with the First Marine Expeditionary Force.

Several years into the project, McLay recounts openly and with bleak honesty the successes, failures, and limits of virtual reality treatment for PTSD. Filled with poignant firsthand accounts of war and its psychological aftermath, At War with PTSD explains the difficulties of using this specialized technology in the field and discusses such challenges as helping people who refuse to believe in PTSD, including those diagnosed with it. So far, the virtual reality program shows more promise than traditional therapies. And although McLay remains unsure why or how, his experiences hold out hope for those suffering from this devastating disorder.

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At War with PTSD

Robert N. McLay, M.D., Ph.D.

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Reviews

Highly recommended for military and psychology holdings alike.

Thoroughly recommended as a humane, insightful, and very readable book.

Recommended to the general reader interested in the effects of war and the importance of finding new and better ways to treat those effects.

Accessible, informative and compelling.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
216
ISBN
9781421405575
Table of Contents

Prologue
1. Why This Book Was Written
2. What Is PTSD Anyway? Looking at the Problem before Iraq
3. Every War Is Different, Every War Is the Same
4. Mind and Brain
5. The Forgotten War
6. Treatment and Cure

Prologue
1. Why This Book Was Written
2. What Is PTSD Anyway? Looking at the Problem before Iraq
3. Every War Is Different, Every War Is the Same
4. Mind and Brain
5. The Forgotten War
6. Treatment and Cure
7. I Don't Believe in That Stuff: Arguments against the Existence of PTSD
8. Some Birthday: Attempts to Prevent PTSD
9. Iraq in Digital
10. Women at War
11. Memorial Day in Camp Fallujah
12. It Just Might Work
13. The State of the Science
14. Therapy in Foxholes
15. The War at Home
16. Virtual Reality Faces the Real Thing
17. Different Roads Home
18. A Kind of Peace: What We Learned and What We Have Left to Accomplish
Acknowledgments
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Robert N. McLay, M.D., Ph.D.

Robert N. McLay, M.D., Ph.D., is a psychiatrist and research director with the Naval Medical Center San Diego. He came on active duty in the United States Navy in 2001 and shortly after the start of the war in Afghanistan became Primary Investigator on two Navy programs involving Virtual Reality treatment for PTSD.