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PTSD in military women can increase risk of eating disorders, addiction

December 7, 2011
by News release
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Chicago — Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often leads to other mental health disorders, namely eating disorders, addiction and even suicide. Recently, one of the highest ranking officials in the Army, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, suggested the name of the condition should be changed to Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) because too many soldiers are not seeking proper treatment and are discouraged from understanding the condition.

"I think it's impressive that the General is advocating for those who suffer the after effects of living through traumatic experiences," said Kim Dennis, MD, medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. "The stigma attached to 'PTSD' is a roadblock to treatment and recovery for many. Our language does have an impact on those we treat or those we never get to treat."

Timberline Knolls reports that more than 75 percent of its residents suffer from co-occurring disorders, mainly trauma. The center's trauma-informed treatment approach and professional expertise in PTSD helps women and adolescent girls with co-occurring disorders.

"Due to trauma experienced in the field or as a result of sexual assault or rape, active duty military women are far more likely to suffer from PTSD as well as eating disorders and addiction," adds Dr. Dennis. "Individuals admitting to Timberline Knolls rarely, if ever, have only one disorder. A service woman who experiences intense PTSD due to combat or sexual violation may begin abusing medications or alcohol, develop an eating disorder or self-injure to cope with the emotional pain."

Upon admission to Timberline Knolls, each service woman is teamed with clinicians who specialize in PTSD. Utilizing dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) in conjunction with a 12-step approach, the center provides intensive individual, group and expressive therapy. In addition, a family systems approach allows family members to receive the help they need to understand their loved one's issues and facilitate her recovery.

"PTSD is difficult to treat on its own, especially when a co-occurring disorder exists," states Dr. Dennis. "Working with qualified professionals can make all the difference in getting back to a normal life."