Panelists say post-traumatic stress disorder can't be cured, can only be managed

There is no way to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, but those suffering from it can learn to manage it, health professionals said Tuesday night.

Kevin Smythe, a supervisory psychologist in the Mental Health Service Line at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, said managing the disorder is currently the only option.

"There are a lot of ebbs and flows (with the disorder)," Smythe said.

He was one of five panelists to speak about the disorder and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

The Cumberland County Public Library headquarters on Maiden Lane hosted the event, where about 60 people attended to learn more about the disorder and how it affects the community.

Other panelists included John Bigger, of the Regional Area Health Education Center; Dr. Harold Kudler, associate director of the VA's Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center for Deployment Mental Health and medical lead for the VISN 6 Rural Health Initiative; Heidi Vance, a licensed professional counselor associate and yoga therapist; and Molly VanDuser, a national certified counselor.

Post-traumatic stress starts after some life altering event that can be visible through several symptoms, including irritation, nightmares and hypervigilance, Kudler said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is when those symptoms have lasted longer than a month and affected one's ability to work and socialize. It is a diagnosed disorder, he said.

Library officials said the topic was important to discuss in the community because Fayetteville's population is greatly affected by nearby Fort Bragg, one of the U.S. military's largest installations.

"I still think there is a stigma attached to get information about this topic," said Jennifer Taft, who is the library system's awareness coordinator.

Taft said the talk was aimed toward a general public audience to keep the discussion relevant as to how the disorder can affect the community.

While Smythe said there's no cure for the diagnosis, VanDuser said family members and neighbors can work to address and soothe disorder symptoms.

"Support them," she said. "That way, when (soldiers) get back, you'll have a pulse on them."

VanDuser said being friendly with soldier neighbors and knowing their normal behavior could make it easier to notice changes in their behavior after they return from war.

Even noticing changes and offering to assist those suffering from the disorder is only part of the equation, panelists said.

Smythe said the only way someone can get better or remedy their symptoms is when they are ready to address their diagnosis.

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