Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder common in discharged soldiers, and is typically linked to high rates of suicide and substance abuse. While there’s a number of common therapy options, the traditional course of treatment is usually based on a combination of personal psychotherapy and medication. Unfortunately, these treatment methods often show limited efficacy or lack thereof.
This challenge led to the emergence of new and innovative supplementary therapies, many of which are developed and tested in Israel.
For example, Israeli researchers are leading the development of a virtual reality (VRET) based therapy plan. Battle-like VR scenarios were incorporated in the treatment of soldiers diagnosed with PTSD, and were found to be highly effective with patients whose condition has shown resistance to traditional treatment methods. One of the advantages of using VR technology is the ability to simulate and expose the patient to extreme stimuli (ie “extinction training”, in psychological terms), that cannot be re-created in real life.
It was recently published that researchers from Tel Aviv University and Shamir Medical Center were able to relieve PTSD symptoms in discharged soldiers, by utilizing an innovative hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol.
The patients, who suffered from treatment-resistant PTSD, participated in a controlled clinical trial of this method, and showed a significant improvement in a variety of symptoms. Hyperbaric oxygen chambers expose the patient to a slightly higher than average atmospheric pressure, and to oxygen-rich air. They are considered to be safe and are already used to treat a wide range of medical conditions.
Another challenge to successful PTSD management is posed by the lack of monitoring technologies that can be used to continuously track triggers and trauma response in patients between sessions. A recent research is looking into utilizing commercial off-the-shelf wearable sensors for this purpose, and applying machine learning methods in order to create an “always-on” support system for patients.
Predictive algorithms were found helpful in identifying heart rate changes correctly, and detecting the onset of PTSD triggers in real time. It is likely that “smart” wearable monitoring technology will be achievable in the near future.