By On March 2nd, 2012

Family Physicians at the Frontline for Veterans Returning with Brain Injuries and PTSD


As soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, most will resume their lives in the civilian world, returning to family, friends, jobs and community. Approximately one of three veterans will experience continuing symptoms of combat stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Others will have symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) as a result of concussive injuries from exposure to IED’s which may manifest itself in the form of memory and attention problems, irritability, having a “short fuse”, sleep disorders and mood problems. In fact, the symptoms may closely mirror those of veterans with PTSD and there are individuals who have both a brain injury and PTSD.

The Family Physician may be the person who is in position to first recognize the problems and this requires that the physician be sensitive to the issues experienced by individuals returning from combat and be aware of the services they may need. As these “wounds of war” are invisible, the Family Physician may need to ask probing questions to develop an understanding of the problem and to formulate a treatment plan. A few of the questions to ask are:

Many returning veterans will seek their healthcare with their primary care physicians and not through the VA. So, it becomes important that civilian physicians develop the skills to identify potential problems and to know the resources that are available to help their veteran patients. Helping the person find the right resources to address their problems on a timely basis can produce better outcomes.

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