Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD has been an ongoing problem for combat vets for many years. Although we do not know the specific causes or why one veteran suffers from PTSD while another does not, it is clear from the 22 veteran suicides a day that more research into the causes and symptoms of this disease is critical to the health and safety of our men and women in uniform.
One symptom of PTSD is reduced sexual function or desire, which can affect the overall self esteem and well being of Veterans. Studies have been started to better understand sexual desire and sexual dysfunction in veterans with and without PTSD in order to determine the best ways to correct the symptom. One such study, “Sexual Dysfunction in Combat Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by Daniel J. Cosgrove, Zachary Gordon, Jonathan E. Bernie, Shanda Hami, Daniel Montoya, Murray B. Stein, and Manoj Monga, measures the difference between sexual function in combat veterans with and without PTSD using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and a health questionnaire.
In this study, veterans medically diagnosed with PTSD were compared with non diagnosed veterans, “obtained by interviewing male patients receiving outpatient general medical or surgical care at the same outpatient Veterans Affairs Medical Center medical facility or at the Veterans Affairs Hospital.” For this study, the control group, was of like-aged males from 30-78 years of age, with similar partner status, and medical heath including high blood pressure, diabetes, and use of tobacco.
The only major variance between PTSD and non PTSD combat veterans was the use of Psychotropic drugs, often used in the treatment of PTSD. Both groups of participants “were asked to complete a packet of questionnaires at a scheduled clinic visit. The packet included a demographic and health questionnaire and the IIEF,” which were used to compare the levels of sexual function, and desire between the two groups.
The results of this study confirmed previous studies, showing that combat veterans who are PTSD sufferers have a lower IIFE score and thus lower sexual function than non PTSD sufferers who are also combat veterans. One interesting outcome of this study was in the area of sexual desire; it showed that while combat veterans with PTSD have decreased erectile and orgasmic function, that their sexual desire remained unaffected.
Further study in this area may however determine, that this is in part due to the self assessing nature of the IIFE, and that the expectation of desire in men, may have skewed this result. For now this study points to the possibility that Sexual Dysfunction in combat veterans with PTSD may be linked to the very medications intended to make them feel better.
Despite the importance of this research to the health and well being of veterans, very little on this topic is addressed in the media. With specific accounts of sexual dysfunction related to PTSD and the side effects of PTSD medications a rare subject, possibly due to the personal nature of the topic. PTSD its self on the other hand, is a topic that is often discussed in things such as web blogs, and in informational media, be it YouTube videos, or even films, such as Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, or the upcoming Burden of Freedom; unfortunately, mass media sources such as TV and radio have yet to focus on PTSD in a major spotlight, leaving veterans feeling forgotten in their struggles.
As a nation we must bring awareness not only to PTSD as an illness, but to the brave men and women continuing to fight for their lives right here at home. Together, we can save lives.