Sunday, August 7, 2016

Las Vegas Vietnam Veterans Learned to Heal PTSD Together

Las Vegas psychiatrist helps Vietnam veterans heal ‘invisible wounds’
August 7, 2016

Until he began therapy sessions with Dr. Steven Kingsbury to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, Marine veteran Lonnie Coslow was in denial about his invisible wounds from the Vietnam War.

“I told him that if the Marines wanted me to have PTSD they would have issued it to me,” Coslow, 71, said Thursday.

Looking back, Coslow now understands how Kingsbury, a wheelchair-bound psychiatrist at the North Las Vegas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, helped him realize how to live with the nightmares, flashbacks and pent-up emotions that have simmered since 1968.

Kingsbury became a mental health expert after earning degrees, completing residencies and serving on faculties at universities like Harvard, Loyola, Miami, Texas and Southern California. Through his knowledge and experience he gradually won Coslow’s confidence.

After 10 years of private sessions with Coslow, the affable doctor persuaded him to join the Tuesday gatherings of a group of about 20 other Las Vegas area combat veterans.

“One of the great things we had going was we saw these guys in a group and they were able to help each other,” Kingsbury said. “Any trust issues that they had with me, they still had trust among themselves.”

When issues like suicidal thoughts, marriage problems and anger flare-ups surfaced, he said, 

“They were there for each other and they could call each other and just get away for awhile.”
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There wasn't a specific name for post-traumatic stress disorder when Dr. Steven Kingsbury first began working with combat veterans a few years after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

PTSD didn't become part of the VA's vocabulary until the American Psychiatric Association's manual for mental health disorders was revised in 1980.

Some symptoms had been described as "shell shock" or "war neuroses" for World War I veterans; or "combat stress reaction" from "battle fatigue" for World War II veterans, according the VA's National Center for PTSD.

During the Korean War era, the association's manual from 1952 made reference to "gross stress reaction" as a symptom of traumatic combat events. The diagnosis, however, was struck from the revised 1968 manual and replaced with an "adjustment reaction to adult life." That was later described on the center's website as "clearly insufficient to capture a PTSD-like condition."

In 2013, more than 500,000 veterans were receiving treatment for PTSD at VA facilities.

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