New PTSD Treatments Use Apps and Video Conferences

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - These days there's an app for just about everything and one South Carolina doctor who is treating Post Traumatic Disorder says there is an app for that too.

"We're not in the business of saying you've got PTSD and so now you're a lifelong patient. The whole goal of our clinic is to get patients to not be patients anymore," said Dr. Peter Tuerk, a psychologist at the Ralph Johnson VA in Charleston.

Tuerk stops short of saying he can cure PTSD but is convinced veterans can be PTSD symptom free.

With that goal in mind, Tuerk is researching and implementing new technology that allow veterans to actually see things like hypervigilance and how they react to stress.

"We have these sweat glands that run very quickly but also dry very quickly when we react to something," Tuerk said during a demonstration of the app tool.

He used a volunteer to show how a startling noise, like the word 'Boo', would increase anxiety and and cause those glands to sweat. The app would then show that increased anxiety on a moving graph.

Right now, he's giving out 30 units with hopes home monitoring will speed up the treatment cycle for veterans.

"Ten years ago it was a $5,000 machine. Now it's a $100 wire with a free app," Tuerk said.

Innovative treatments aren't just in cities with big VA hospitals but also in rural areas thanks to a video conferencing treatment called Telehealth.

According to Tuerk, 85% of veterans with PTSD who complete exposure therapy will no longer have their PTSD symptoms.

But, there's a shortage of staff as potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans will need treatment over the next decade.

"I don't believe, and this is my own personal belief based upon years of study and treating it, I don't believe that it's ever curable but highly treatable," said Dr. Diana Thorne, who treats PTSD at the Dorn VA. "The smartest thing to do is to be able to beef up the staff before it happens otherwise you're going to have a staff just a stressed as the people coming back."

Part of the 'beefing up' came in hiring Scott Casimiro, who councels veterans at Dorn VA.

"IED blast roughly about a foot and a half away," Casimiro said. "Shrapnel from that IED blast pierced my frames to me being traumatically blind."

After serving as a Marine in Afghanistan, Casimiro now has PTSD and is part of the Dorn team helping veterans when they return from war.

"I meet with them individually or I can meet with the veteran and their family," Casimiro said.

In those meetings, Casimiro connects veterans with things outside the VA like fitness groups or non-profits.

'I'm able to provide to them some of the things that I have personally gone through and some of the things I belive will help assist and empower the veteran," Casimiro said.


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