Natl Ctr for PTSD research confirms The Phoenix Project’s approach to Veterans

Lifestyle Changes Recommended for PTSD Patients

People with PTSD need to take active steps to deal with their PTSD symptoms. Often these steps involve making thoughtful changes in your lifestyle. By making these changes, you can reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some positive changes you could make:

Have more contact with other trauma survivors

Other trauma survivors are a good source of understanding and support. You could join a survivors’ organization. For example, Veterans may want to join a Veterans’ organization. By having contact with others who have had similar experiences, you will no longer be isolated. You will also begin to break down any distrust of others.
It may be hard to take the first step and join a PTSD treatment group or other peer support group. You may have said to yourself, “What will happen there? Nobody can help me anyway.” Many people with PTSD find it hard to meet new people. They have trouble trusting enough to open up to someone new. Yet it can also be a great relief to feel that you have taken positive action. You will learn that you are not the only one dealing with the types of feelings you have. In time you may also end up being friends with another survivor.

Start exercising

Walking, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, and other forms of exercise often reduce physical tension. It is important to see a doctor before starting to exercise. If your doctor gives the OK, exercise in moderation can help those with PTSD. Exercise may give you a break from difficult emotions. It may distract you from painful memories or worries. Perhaps most important, exercise can improve self-esteem. It may create feelings of personal control.
Change neighborhoods

Survivors with PTSD often think that the world is a very dangerous place. You may think it is likely that you will be harmed again. If you have PTSD, living in a high-crime area may confirm these beliefs and make you more fearful. If it is possible, move to a safer area. It may then be easier for you to rethink your beliefs about danger. You may be better able to trust that you will be safe.

Volunteer in the community

Most people need to feel as though they can contribute to their community. You may not feel you have anything to offer others, especially if you are not working. One way survivors can reconnect with their communities is to volunteer. You can help with youth programs, health services, reading programs, sports activities, building housing, and in many other ways.

Stay away from drinking and drugs

Sometimes trauma survivors turn to alcohol and drugs to help them cope with PTSD. While these substances may distract you from your painful feelings for a short time, relying on alcohol and drugs always makes things worse in the end. These substances get in the way of PTSD treatment and recovery. Rather than trying to beat an addiction by yourself, you may want to join a treatment program. It is often easier to deal with addictions if you can be around others who are working on the same kinds of issues.

Invest more in personal relationships

Most trauma survivors have a son or daughter, a wife or partner, or an old friend or work buddy. Make an effort to renew or increase contact with that person. This can help you reconnect with others, which in turn helps you cope with PTSD. It will increase the chances you have to feel good and have fun. Others can offer you emotional support as you change your habits and behaviors.

source: National Center for PTSD


Raising the Bar (Documentary) and Op: HighSpeed/LowDrag


Check out this documentary.  It supports our evidence and experience that CrossFit is an excellent choice for Veteran Fitness, Transition and Rehabilitation.

Jason Sturm had a life and career planned in the US military, but everything changed when a combat training accident took his leg. Finding community and rehabilitation in the extreme-intensity world of Crossfit training, Raising the Bar follows Jason as he pursues his dream of going back to school, opening his own gym, and shaping a life committed to helping other adaptive athletes regain fitness and health.


Raising-the-Bar Trailer from Center for Innovative Media on Vimeo.

BaR: Battle Reflections

I’ve decided to start a new operation.  BaR (Battle Reflections)  will be a running Video Blog within the Phoenix Project that will feature Warriors sharing and reflecting on their experiences in the military.

By sharing and remembering these times, it helps warriors stay connected in a healthy way to their memories, and, we hope, be to move through and process some of the ones they are having trouble handling.

We will be setting up a separate GoFundMe for this, and I will update this post with the link.


The Rhino Den – WE ARE STILL AT WAR.

link to full article:

By Jack Mandaville

Earlier this evening I was at dinner with my girlfriend, enjoying a large plate of Texas fajitas with a tall, cold glass of water to wash everything down. As I was finishing my plate—and loosening my belt after eating more than I probably should have—we somehow got onto the topic of the plastic crate sitting in our closet.

“I know if there was ever a fire the first thing you’d want to grab is your Marine Corps tub,” she said.

“Hey now, I’d grab you first then the tub,” I responded jokingly.

This crate, nestled under a bunch of boxes in the corner of our walk-in closet, is the only visual reminder in our entire place that I served. All of the most important physical items from my active-duty years (photographs, uniforms, war loot, letters, etc) sit in that nondescript tub that was purchased for less than $5 at Walmart. It’s a vital, yet hidden, link to my past.

At thirty years old and seven years removed from the Marines, I’ve outgrown the majority of the post-service readjustment obstacles that many encounter. I’m settled and happy with my professional and personal life—thinking more about tomorrow than yesterday.

Our conversation quickly progressed from a rare Q&A about my time in service to one about the guys I served with and where they’re at now. I talked about how I respect them more now than I did while were young men on active-duty, how they’re all doing well in life and looking to the future.

These are a group of men who served in one of the toughest jobs in one of the toughest time periods of the Iraq War and, contrary to the popular media narrative, none of them are felons or living on the streets. In fact, among them, there are successful contractors, cops, lawyers, med students, businessmen, and even a PhD candidate at any Ivy League school. The ones who stayed in the military have advanced within the enlisted ranks and some have even taken commissions. They’re family men, as well. Hell, at this point, our peer group has gone through a mini baby boom, causing me to lose track of all the new names in our family.

Yes, they did some incredible and impressive things in uniform. But the talented professionals and doting fathers they’ve become has driven my respect for them through the roof.

Within that conversation I also casually mentioned that we were involved with the Global War on Terror in its early stages. I mentioned the fact that some of the young men and women deployed to Afghanistan now were barely learning to read when the Twin Towers were hit—not even old enough to comprehend the enormity of that day.

That conversation was six hours ago. It’s 3:20 in the morning and, in a bout of insomnia, I just checked my Twitter feed. One of the first things that popped up was a tweet from a Twin Cities news anchorman.

–RIP Caleb Erickson– Marine from Waseca, MN killed by suicide bomber in Afghanistan Friday. 20 years old.

This wasn’t the first tweet of its kind that I’ve seen. But something about it struck my soul. It was undoubtedly a combination of the earlier conversation with my girlfriend—again, that is out of the ordinary these days—and the fact that this young man was from the same home state as me. Additionally, the tweet was accompanied by a picture. It was that same backdrop mixed with the American and Marine Corps flags that I had once sat in front of. A young, straight-faced man halfway through bootcamp with a white barracks cover resting atop his head as he stared into the camera.

Twenty years old. He wasn’t even in double digits when we crossed the LOD into Iraq ten years ago. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a terrible reminder that we’re still at war. It’s a terrible reminder that this young man will never have the same opportunity to live the life of peace the men of my generation have enjoyed. He’s the same as those we lost ten years ago, who should be where we are–eating too much Mexican food and chirping away with their loved ones about different subjects. He’ll never have that memory crate to stuff away in the corner of his house as he goes on with life.

And now we have one more Gold Star family in America. We have one more platoon missing a brother. It’s year twelve in Afghanistan. That conflict is on its second president, its eighth CentCom commander, its 2,313th US death, and its 3,425th Coalition death.

Even for those of us whose job revolves around supporting active-duty troops and Veterans, sometimes we need these hard reminders. Because knowing the troops are still in Afghanistan and wanting to see a logical conclusion to the war are two different things. I can no longer carry on with a “I did my time, glad I’m not there” mentality. My own cousin has been in Afghanistan for months now and the only time I give it any thought is when I see occasional pictures of him on Facebook. I owe him more. We owe the young men and women still serving more.

This country is still at war. We’re still losing our people. We have an entirely new generation of war vets that will have to encounter the trials and tribulations of post-war adjustment until they settle into their groove.

What are we doing?

You Are Not Alone: Suicide Prevention Tools for Warriors

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone. Suicide is a medical emergency and care should be sought immediately by calling 911.  Free, confidential resources are instantly available through the Military Crisis Lineto aid you if you are in crisis.  Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat online now for 24/7 access to trained counselors who understand what service members and military families are coping with.

Some service members may face emotional or psychological concerns such asfeelings of anger, isolation, anxiety or guilt following a deployment  or as a result of coping with the stress of military life. These reactions, among others, can be common responses to extraordinary events. For some service members, these feelings may be signs of more serious concerns, including depression  or posttraumatic stress disorder.  Warriors coping with these concerns may feel like there is no escape from their symptoms, which may lead to thoughts of suicide.1 However, warriors should be assured that tools that encourage resilience and recovery are available and they work.

Proof That You Can Heal
Wounded by an IED blast in Iraq, Maj. Pulido returned home facing tremendous physical and psychological challenges, including thoughts of suicide. By seeking care for psychological health concerns, Maj. Pulido learned coping skills and was able to regain peak performance. Watch him tell his story of strength and resilience.

How Do I Know if I Am Showing Warning Signs?

Contact a friend, family member, commanding officer, health professional or the Military Crisis Line immediately if you are:2

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  • Seeking access to pills, weapons or other means of harming yourself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

It is also important to seek out professional help if you are experiencing any of these signs of concern:2

  • Being unable to sleep or oversleeping
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky behavior
  • Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge
  • Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness
  • Reliving past experiences
  • Experiencing dramatic changes in mood
  • Feeling hopeless

It’s critical to speak up if you have concerns about the psychological health of a fellow service member. Read the Real Warriors Campaign articles, “You Are Your Friend’s Biggest Support,” to learn more about when a warrior may be at risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and what to do when you identify a potential concern.

What Tools Can Help Me Cope While I Seek Treatment?

The most important step in combating thoughts of suicide is reaching out for professional support through resources like the Military Crisis Line. Professional support is critical to recovering to peak performance.  In addition, the following tips can help you on your journey of recovery and resilience:3

Suicide prevention in the military is the responsibility of all leaders. Front-line leaders at all levels must take measures to create a command climate that encourages service members to seek the help they need. To learn more, read the Real Warriors Campaign article, “Suicide Prevention Training for Line Leaders,” and download the DCoE fact sheet, “Suicide: What Unit Leaders Need to Know” [PDF 1.74MB].

Who Can I Reach Out to for More Information and Support?

In addition to trained professionals at the Military Crisis Line, you can access suicide prevention resources and links through the Defense Suicide Prevention Office suicide outreach page and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE)’s suicide prevention page. You can also access suicide prevention resources within the services:

Reaching Out Is a Sign of Strength

America’s service members and veterans are strong. Sometimes reaching out for help can be the most challenging and worthwhile mission of all. If you are experiencing or if you suspect someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately by calling the Military Crisis Line  at 800-273-8255 and press 1 or chat online now.

Additional Resources


1 Hudenko, W. “PTSD and Suicide Fact Sheet,” National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Oct. 18, 2013.
2 “Risk and Protective Factors,” [PDF 482.84KB] Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.Published September 2011.
3 “Coping and Support,” The Mayo Clinic. Last accessed Oct. 18, 2013.


Century-old Experiment Helps Researchers Understand PTSD

Century-old Experiment Helps Researchers Understand PTSD

Posted by Dr. Michael Roy, Professor of Medicine at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences on February 20, 2014

Illustration of a three-dimensional side view of the brain
This illustration shows a three-dimensional side view of the brain. The amygdala lies deep within the brain and the brain stem. (Photo courtesy of National Institutes of Health)

Why do posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms persist in some people and not others? An experiment performed more than 100 years ago is helping us find answers.

Our team and researchers at other top universities are learning more about PTSD using Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s famous “conditioned response” experiment. Working with service members with and without PTSD, we hope to better understand the disorder to improve diagnosis and treatment.

The experiment

One experiment, based on Pavlov’s discovery, involves observing how someone with PTSD experiences fear. The feeling of fear is an important cue to deciding if our surroundings are safe or dangerous. It also prepares us to respond. A part of the brain known as the amygdala plays a big role in deciding whether to stay where we are or run away, the “fight or flight” response.

In this experiment, we show individuals colored shapes on a computer screen. One pattern of shapes is paired with an uncomfortable puff of air directed to their throats. We show the shapes and then measure their physiological responses, such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating and eye blinking. Their responses indirectly measure how their brain responds to stimuli. The amygdala and other parts of the brain trigger those responses.


During the experiment, study participants learn that one pattern of shapes signifies danger with the puff of air, while another pattern signifies safety, or no puff of air. Participants with PTSD tend to have a greater physiologic response to the danger cues — increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweat response and eye blinking, than those who don’t have PTSD. This holds true even if they’ve had similar traumatic experiences, such as combat.

After study participants have learned whether danger is near or not by the pattern of shapes they see, they’re shown the shape that means danger together with the one that means safety. Those with PTSD tend to pay more attention to the danger signal. Those who don’t have PTSD focus on the safety signal. We know this by their physiological responses.

What we learned

From this experiment we learned that individuals with PTSD find it harder to control their fear response even when danger and safety signals are present at the same time. The danger cue promotes such a fear of something bad happening that they can’t believe in the safety cue. This pattern fits with studies of the brain that show that the frontal lobes, which normally control the fear centers of the brain, don’t perform as well in individuals with PTSD.

To learn more about the relationship between PTSD and the brain, we look at how the brain functions in the same patients who did the shapes experiment. For this we use a special tool called functional MRI. The tool measures changes in oxygen levels in different parts of the brain. That gives us certain types of information, such as how strongly the amygdala responds to fear.

New imaging techniques, technologies such as virtual reality, and mobile applications such as smartphone apps can help us understand and treat PTSD. Come back to the DCoE Blog to hear more about what we’re learning from these remarkable tools in future articles.

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Michael Roy is a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Military Internal Medicine at Uniformed Services University (USU), and director of recruitment for USU’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. He’s the principal investigator on multiple studies about war-related health that often use cutting edge technologies and virtual reality therapy.


It’s time Veterans get the help they TRULY DESERVE.

We assist Current and Former Members of the US Armed Forces and their Families though short or long term Social Services.

Current and Prior Service members of the US Armed Forces are actually some of the most neglected members of the American Population.  Some require more than the services offered today, and most don’t know how to access the services that already exist.  It’s our job to bridge that gap, and get them the assistance they deserve.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

-Helen Keller