Massage reduces stress and depression, while it increases feelings of relaxation, all key components of addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now researchers say focusing on certain PTSD symptoms may be key to treating anger among U.S. service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

From interviews with 676 veterans, Eric Elbogen, Ph.D., lead author of the study, and colleagues identified features associated with anger and hostility, which result in increased risk of post-deployment adjustment problems as veterans transition to civilian life, according to a University of North Carolina School of Medicine press release.

“Most returning veterans don’t have PTSD or difficulty with anger or aggressiveness, but for the small subset who do, this study helps to identify related risk factors,” said Elbogen, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine
and a staff psychologist at the VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

“The data showed that PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks or avoiding reminders of a trauma were not consistently connected to aggressiveness,” said Elbogen. “Instead, we found that post-deployment anger and hostility were associated with PTSD hyperarousal symptoms: sleep problems, being ‘on guard,’ jumpiness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.”

Veterans who said they had difficulty controlling violent behavior were more likely to report witnessing pre-military family violence, firing a weapon during deployment, being deployed more than one year, and experiencing current hyperarousal symptoms.

“As we learn more about risk factors and how to manage them, we’ll be helping not only the veterans but their families and society at large,” Elbogen said.

The study is published in AJP in Advance, the online advance edition of The American Journal of Psychiatry the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association.

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