A Social Network for Navy Veterans of the United States of America
Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the most selfless things an individual can do. Soldiers, whether in combat or serving in a time of peace, face challenges daily. Their lives change, and while most veterans agree that the changes are positive, some individuals emerge with some serious mental and physical challenges at the end of their tour of duty, especially those who have served during a time of war.
It is not unusual for someone who has experienced the angst of combat to develop psychological issues, even after the fighting is behind them. One of the most common problems diagnosed in Navy veterans and other former (and current) soldiers is manic depression.
Manic depression, also commonly known as Bipolar Disorder, is a mood disorder. This disease is defined as the presence of extremely elevated moods, or “mania”, followed by severely depressed episodes. Sometimes the episodes are mixed but usually they are separated by a “normal” period. The manic periods often lead to psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. In some serious cases, there is risk of harm to one’s self or to others.
Studies have shown that both genetics and the environment help determine who develops bipolar disorder. Indeed, life events and experiences can play a major role in the development of the disease, which is why Navy vets and other soldiers, especially those who have been in combat, may be prone to developing manic depression. Furthermore, other studies show that as many as 50 percent of adults who develop this disorder report traumatic or abusive experiences during their childhood years. Therefore, the combination of stressful war-related experiences and childhood trauma make manic depression a reality for many war veterans.
Manic depression can be treated both pharmacologically and psychotherapeutically. It is also not unusual for hospitalization to occur, especially during extreme manic episodes. Many families find it necessary to “commit” their loved ones to a psychological facility to avoid the possibility of self-harm.
Treatment by medication usually involves the use of a mood stabilizer drug. For many years, lithium was the drug of choice and still the best for reducing suicides among bipolar patients. However, some newer drugs have also emerged and have shown much promise in the treatment of the disorder. Anti-psychotic drugs may also be used and psychiatrists have continually debated the use of anti-anxiety drugs in the treatment of manic depression.
Psychotherapy is aimed at recognizing episode triggers and alleviating core symptoms of the disorder. Cognitive behavior therapy is most often employed as is family-focused therapy. The main goal of any psychotherapy, however, is relapse prevention.
If you are a Navy veteran or you know one that is experiencing what appears to be manic depression, it is necessary to seek out treatment. Bipolar disorder is rarely a disease that can be self-cured and it can escalate quickly and become out of control. Veterans or families of vets should contact their local Veteran’s Administration (VA) to find out what kinds of services are available for former or current members of the Armed Forces who are suffering from manic depression.
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