VA expert: First 24 hours after traumatic event can determine whether a soldier develops PTSD

Posted at 6:24 PM, Dec 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-17 18:24:01-05

Dr. Kate Chard, a Cincinnati Veterans Affairs expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, wasn’t popular at Fort Campbell when she released her recommendations for soldiers who had recently experienced trauma: No cigarettes, no violent video games, no loud music, less caffeine and a lot more sleep.

But they’re necessary, she said Monday. As researchers expand their understanding of how PTSD literally changes the brain, Chard believes giving a soldier time and space to recover in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event can reduce the chances of them developing the disorder in the years to come. The first 24 hours can make an enormous difference.

In many cases, she said, “my veteran will point to that day as being the day as to whether they developed PTSD or not.”

In that day, she said continual exposure to sources of stress such as combat, overstimulating media and debrief meetings that focus on distributing blame can compound trauma.

Rest and emotional support, on the other hand, can have significant benefits.

“We have our veterans coming in telling us they were blown up 12 times and they didn't have any rest,” Chard said. “We’re looking at the brain damage that they have and the ongoing post concussive symptoms, and we can compare that to the guys who were allowed to rest that didn't have the same exposure to IEDs.”