While my expertise is primarily on the level of theology and how PTSD trauma causes soul wounds, the PTSD Spirituality Blog is also interested in standard medical treatments for PTSD symptoms. Today’s online Washington Post has an article about prazosin, a blood pressure drug, that also appears to alleviate PTSD related nightmares. Nightmares are corrosive to our well-being, both our physical health and our spiritual health. If I am not sleeping well, my performance and abilites in all areas will suffer; indeed, it can make you suicidal.
Got Nightmares? According to the WasPo article, written by Scott Fontaine, some US Army units now have signs up that say, “Got Nightmares?” This effort to de-stigmnatize nightmnares and PTSD is just what the military needs. PTSD is the natural outcome of trauma. Trauma is one of the natural outcomes of military service, rape, and priest abuse. Taking a positive, treatment oriented approach to PTSD symptoms will save lives, reduce divorces, and even lower the rate of infidelity. PTSD symptoms are inter-connected and one set of PTSD problems will reinforce another set. It is refreshing to see the military, or at least Army units on the West Coast, seek to help its soldiers, instead of alienate them because they contracted PTSD while serving their country.
The Stress Stigma: In the 1980s the miltary culture was that if you admitted to stress you would be punished or receive a poor evaluation. Much more recently, soldiers still avoid admittig to PTSD symptoms for fear it will damage their careers. It was an accurate fear. If you exhibted stress symptoms, or even worse, admitted to having stress, you would discover your career trajectory just took a turn for the worse.
Sleep Means Getting Your Life Back: I had nightmares for 23 years. I am blessed now that they are gone. I used to be afraid to go to sleep and the sleep deprivation intensified my other health problems. I was told that I was “dangerous” in my sleep and more than once I woke up responding to street noise reaching for my supposed web gear and equipment. Since my nightmares left I feel like I have my own life, my own identity, restored to me.
One retired Army officer, quoted in the WashPo article, said:
“Prazosin has changed so, so much in my life,” said Boice, a retired military police lieutenant colonel living in Olympia, Wash. “I couldn’t sleep before, and it’s given me my nights back.”
Self Medicating for Sleep: Soliders and other trauma survivors will often use drugs or alcohol to help them sleep. In order to get to sleep they may medicate themselves in these ways and thus create other problems. The irony here is that the drug or alcohol induced sleep is not a nourishing one. One does not wake up refreshed and healed. And, to get whatever sleep one can get from the self-medication, people will usually increase the amounts they take. An irony here is that as they increase the amounts, they will begin to get even less sleep, all the while becoming drug or alcohol dependent.
Keeping Your Career: I hope that the Army, and the wider medical community, continue to study prazosin as a means to alleviate nightmares. One of the upsides of this medication for soldiers is that you are still deployable if you are on it. For career-oriented military, as well as those trauma survivors who just want to remain functional in society, this holds real promise. While prazosin does not cure PTSD, initial field results indicate that it can help alleviate one of the most crippling PTSD symptoms, nightmares. If we can reduce PTSD symptoms, then we can reduce the PTSD Identity’s spiral of negative damaging behaviors.
There is Always Hope: If you have PTSD, there is always Hope. Don’t give up. You have value and your life matters.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z