Associate Professor of Psychology Tomas Yufik counsels vets with PTSD — and researches how successful treatments can be applied everywhere from the ballot box to the dentist’s chair.

As many as 20 percent of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For Vietnam vets, that number is 30 percent.

 

Even more troubling than these statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is the difficulty in diagnosing and treating PTSD, says Associate Professor of Psychology Tomas Yufik. Based on his clinical expertise counseling veterans (and nonveterans) coping with PTSD, anxiety, depression and a host of other psychological concerns, Yufik advocates a diagnosis framework that incorporates adaptable and comprehensive tools like empirically based personality assessments and personal interviews. “When veterans come in, it’s often because they’re required to,” he says. “They’ve experienced trauma, but they don’t want to talk about it. The more time you can spend with someone and the more assessments you can give, the stronger and more accurate your diagnosis is going to be.”

It’s time well spent, says Yufik, because rigorous evaluation leads to more effective treatment.

It also helps normalize what vets often see as a stigma attached to PTSD. “They may regard their struggles as personal weakness,” he says. “But the more we talk about it, the more they come to understand that their symptoms are totally normal — and treatable. They are not alone, and they can recover.”

Behavioral Neuroscience major Libby Fish ’18 is conducting research with Associate Professor of Psychology Tomas Yufik in a nitrous oxide study. “I plan to be a dentist, but I love learning about the brain and how different chemicals can alter behavior,” she says. “If we find that nitrous oxide is effective in treating depressive symptoms in people with PTSD, we could help improve so many lives — including those who put their lives on the line for this country.”