Psychologist Disturbed By Use of Exorcism to Treat PTSD
Misunderstanding and stigma of PTSD leading to outlandish “treatments”
February 4, 2014, Austin, Texas –“Can Exorcisms Help Soldiers with PTSD” hit the stands last month, and appalled Dr. Heather Silvio, specialist in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a licensed clinical psychologist currently working on a PTSD treatment team and a former Lieutenant Commander working with military service members diagnosed with PTSD, Dr. Silvio is qualified in her outrage. Confusion about the stress disorder has increased significantly with the amped-up attention the media has given to the disorder. Storylines in television shows and video games that link violence to the disorder, especially when connected with veterans, has resulted in an armchair diagnosis of PTSD for every violent individual in real life. This narrow view that PTSD and violence go hand-in-hand may prevent victims from reaching out for professional mental health treatment and, instead, to pursue other extreme treatments, or even no treatment at all.
“As a trained professional who has worked for years with PTSD sufferers, I recognize that an individual experiencing symptoms of PTSD will try almost anything to reduce or even eliminate those symptoms,” said Dr. Silvio, “and I am deeply disturbed that due to the misunderstanding and stigma of PTSD, individuals are turning, out of desperation, to such pseudo-treatments as exorcism. The story in the New York Post was just one more example of the incorrect and ineffective treatments happening for PTSD.”
Many veterans do suffer from PTSD. In fact, up to 20% of US veterans from tours in Iraq are predicted to have suffered from the disorder, and as many as 30% of US veterans who served in Vietnam. However, any trauma can cause the stress disorder, such as rape, surviving a natural disaster, or other atrocities like witnessing a death. The US National Center for PTSD reports that over five million individuals will suffer from symptoms of PTSD this year resulting from non-war related trauma. With up to 60% of men and 50% of women expected to experience at least one trauma in their lives, the misdiagnoses or mistreatment of PTSD can have far-reaching consequences.
“Over the years, through my training and practice as a psychologist,” Dr. Silvio explained, “I have worked with individuals who have been traumatized from combat, childhood sexual abuse, Hurricane Katrina, and rape, among others, and what many of them have in common is the delay they experienced in seeking help. This was often almost entirely due to not understanding what was happening to them psychologically, and not realizing things could be different, that hope was out there.”
Moreover, although an individual with a diagnosis of PTSD can certainly act out violently, that is not the norm. Symptoms primarily impact only the traumatized individual, in the form, for example, of nightmares, intrusive thoughts of the trauma, and avoidance of other people. Because of the automatic association of violence with PTSD in the media, many sufferers will not realize they have PTSD and may not seek help.
“Symptoms of a stress disorder, including PTSD, can result from any trauma and can feel overwhelming. The good news is that with guidance, people can learn skills and techniques to reduce those symptoms and regain control of their lives”, Dr. Silvio said.
Dr. Silvio believes it’s time to counteract the media portrayal of the disorder with facts. Her mission is to educate, speak out, and change the stigma surrounding PTSD. “Mental health professionals are qualified and eager to treat those suffering from PTSD,” Dr. Silvio explained, “and it all begins with raising awareness, minimizing the misinformation, and creating a platform of understanding.” Dr. Silvio kicked off her mission with a new book, The BabyBird Guide to Stress Disorders: A Healing Path for PTSD, and will also be appearing on The MORE Show.
About Heather Silvio, Psy.D.
Dr. Heather Silvio is a licensed clinical psychologist. She currently works as a psychologist and Acting Program Manager of the Combat Related PTSD Treatment Program at the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the U.S. A veteran herself, Dr. Silvio was previously a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Public Health Service, primarily working with active duty service members diagnosed with PTSD and other mental health diagnoses. During her time in service, she received multiple awards, including two Response Service Awards for humanitarian deployments and two Unit Commendations. You can contact Dr. Silvio through her website.
About BabyBird Guide
BabyBird Guide was incorporated in 2013 with a single mission: to create non-fiction ebooks in easy-to-digest pieces that are informative, easy to read, and affordable. That’s how we landed on our tagline: Knowledge in Bite-Sized Pieces™. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, authors live around the world and titles are currently published in English only. The ebooks can be read in about 30 minutes and are priced at what a single chapter might cost.