>>NEARLY 1 IN 10 OF THE MILLIONS OF AMERICAN TROOPS THAT HAVE SERVED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN HAVE SOME FORM OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. AT THE RESTORES CLINIC AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, RESEARCHERS ARE WORKING WITH VIRTUAL-REALITY TECHNOLOGY TO DEVELOP INNOVATIVE TREATMENTS TO HELP VETERANS RECLAIM THEIR LIVES.>>WHEN STEPHEN COTTA WAS DEPLOYED TO IRAQ IN 2009, HE WAS A YOUNG MAN EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE. WHEN HE RETURNED HOME A YEAR LATER, HE WAS RECLUSIVE, AGGRESSIVE, AND ANGRY. COTTA SHOWED THE CLASSIC-SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.>>I WAS IN A VERY, VERY DARK PLACE, AND IT WAS VERY NERVE-RACKING TO ME TO FEEL THAT LACK OF CONTROL, TO WHERE I FELT LIKE I WAS POWERLESS OVER SOMETHING, BECAUSE I WAS NO LONGER MANAGING MY LIFE. MY LIFE WAS MANAGING ME.>>COTTA’S LIFE PATH CHANGED, HOWEVER, WHEN HE SOUGHT HELP AT UCF RESTORES, A CLINICAL RESEARCH CENTER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA’S PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT. IT HELPS VETERANS WITH PTSD TO COPE WITH LIFE’S CHALLENGES. ONE FORM OF TREATMENT OFFERED IS EXPOSURE THERAPY, USING VIRTUAL-REALITY TECHNOLOGY.>>EXPOSURE THERAPY HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE THE ’70s. AND WHAT WE’VE DONE IS SUPPLEMENT IT WITH VIRTUAL-REALITY EQUIPMENT, SUCH AS SOUNDS… [ EXPLOSION ] …SMELLS, AS WELL AS VIRTUAL-REALITY IMAGES THAT WILL HELP THE VETERAN GET MORE IN TOUCH WITH THE TRAUMATIC MEMORY. THESE MEMORIES ARE OFTEN VERY TRAUMATIC FOR THESE VETERANS. [ EXPLOSION, INDISTINCT SHOUTING ] AND, SO, WHAT THE VIRTUAL REALITY DOES IS — THEY’RE ALL THE SOUNDS OF WAR, THE SMELLS OF WAR, THE VISUALS OF WAR, AND THAT HELPS THEM GET IN BETTER TOUCH WITH THAT MEMORY SO THEY CAN LEARN, IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT, HOW TO ADJUST THEM. UNFORTUNATELY, A LOT OF THE INCIDENTS THAT THE VETERANS EXPERIENCED WERE IN VEHICLES FOR I.E.D. EXPLOSIONS. THE TREATMENT IS MOST EFFECTIVE WHEN WE CAN TAILOR THE INDIVIDUAL SCENE TO THE VETERAN. AND, AGAIN, THIS TREATMENT’S ABOUT BEING ABLE TO DO THE SCENARIO OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL THE VETERAN CAN LEARN A BETTER ASSOCIATION WITH THAT TRAUMATIC MEMORY.>>COTTA IS ONE IF OVER 150 VETERANS WHO HAVE UNDERGONE EXPOSURE THERAPY AT UCF RESTORES.>>I WAS VERY NERVOUS, VERY EXCITED. IT WAS A MIX OF EMOTIONS FOR ME, YOU KNOW? IT CAN BE VERY FRIGHTENING COMING IN TO SOMETHING THAT YOU KNOW IS GONNA FORCE YOU TO GO BACK TO SOMEWHERE YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO BE AT, YOU KNOW?>>SO, I WANT YOU TO THINK BACK IN FEBRUARY, IN 2009, WHEN YOU WERE BACK IN IRAQ. AND, SO, YOU REMEMBER GOING ON PATROL. AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?>>ONCE WE DEPARTED THE STAGING AREA, WE WERE HEADED WEST ON A SIDE ROAD AND WE HAD PASSED OUR LAST TRUCK AND WE HAD ENTERED INTO THE FIELD. WE PASSED THE WALL. WHAT IT IS THAT’S GREAT ABOUT THIS PROGRAM IS THAT IT SHOWS YOU TO HANDLE AND MANAGE YOURSELF, BECAUSE, REALLY, YOU’RE KIND OF JUST LIKE A LOST CHILD WHEN YOU’RE — BEFORE. PRIOR TO THIS PROGRAM, I WAS HAVING A LOT OF ISSUES WITH MY POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS, AND I THINK THAT IT WAS MOSTLY A LOT OF FEAR. I WAS VERY AFRAID THAT NO ONE COULD HELP ME AND NOBODY CAN UNDERSTAND. SO, WHEN I WAS IN THE VIRTUAL REALITY, IT SHOWED ME THAT I CAN DO IT MYSELF. ONCE WE WERE ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH THE GRAVEYARD, WE RECEIVED SMALL-ARMS FIRE FROM THE SOUTHWEST CORNER, IMMEDIATELY HIT THE GROUND, AND WAS SCANNING MY SECTOR AND JUST TRYING TO SEE ANY TYPE OF POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION FROM THE BUILDING WHERE WE WERE RECEIVING THE FIRE. AT THE SAME TIME, A LOT OF COMMUNICATION WAS GOING ON.>>WHEN WE TALK TO OUR VETERANS WHEN THEY COME INTO THE PROGRAM, WE TELL THEM THAT, “YOU KNOW, THIS MEMORY IS NEVER GONNA BE SOMETHING PLEASANT. IT’S NEVER GONNA BE, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING THAT’S GOOD TO THINK ABOUT. BUT WHAT WE CAN DO IS HELP REDUCE A LOT OF THE PAIN AND A LOT OF THE ANXIETY THAT COMES UP WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT.”>>AND MY BEST FRIEND’S TRUCK WAS HIT WITH A HAND GRENADE. [ EXPLOSION, INDISTINCT SHOUTING ] AND WHEN THAT HAND GRENADE WENT OFF, I CAN REMEMBER BEING EXTREMELY FRIGHTENED, BECAUSE IT WAS MY CLOSEST FRIEND’S VEHICLE. YOU HAVE TO COMPLETELY IMMERSE YOURSELF IN IT 100% AND YOU HAVE TO GIVE EVERY PIECE OF YOUR SOUL, BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY WAY. [ Voice breaking ] IT’S REALLY NICE TO HAVE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, LIKE, TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF AND THEN HAVE PEOPLE WHO CARE. I CAN’T EXPLAIN THE FEELING THAT IT GIVES ME.>>BENJAMIN TRACHIK BELIEVES IF A VETERAN IS COMFORTABLE WITH VIRTUAL-REALITY TECHNOLOGY, IT’S EASIER FOR THEM TO SEEK HELP AT UCF RESTORES.>>VETERANS, ESPECIALLY THE YOUNGER VETERANS, HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY. AND I THINK THAT IT IS HELPFUL, YOU KNOW, TO HAVE THEM COME IN THE DOOR, AND THAT CAN OFTEN BE THE HARDEST PART FOR A LOT OF VETERANS IS TO, YOU KNOW, ADMIT THAT THERE IS AN ISSUE THAT THEY NEED HELP WITH. AND ANYTHING THAT WE CAN DO TO BE ABLE TO MAKE THAT TRANSITION A LITTLE BIT EASIER IS WHAT WE WANT TO DO.>>…BECAUSE I NEEDED TO KEEP MY EYES OUT AND I NEEDED TO MAKE SURE THAT I WAS KEEPING MY SECURITY AND MAKING SURE THAT THERE WERE NO SECONDARIES COMING.>>COTTA KNOWS THERE ARE NO EASY SOLUTIONS TO PTSD.>>ONE THING ABOUT POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER THAT PEOPLE GET VERY CONFUSED — IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT IS “CURABLE.” THERE’S NO — IT’S NOT SOMETHING THAT’S GONNA GO AWAY. IT’S GONNA BE WITH ME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.>>BUT THROUGH THIS NEW TREATMENT, COTTA HAS SOMETHING HE HASN’T HAD IN A LONG TIME.>>THIS PROGRAM GIVES YOU TOOLS THAT YOU NEVER KNEW THAT YOU HAD BEFORE. IT HELPS YOU TO OVERCOME SO MUCH STUFF. THIS PROGRAM LITERALLY SAVED MY LIFE. SUCCESS JUST MEANS HAVING A MANAGEABLE LIFE AND BEING ABLE TO BE SOMEWHAT NORMAL, YOU KNOW, AND NOT FEELING LIKE YOU’RE AN OUTCAST. POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, TO ME, IS MY LIFE. AND I CAN’T STOP, BECAUSE IT’S NOT GONNA STOP FOR ME. EVERY TIME THAT I LEAVE THIS PLACE, I JUST FEEL SO MUCH MORE HOPE INSIDE OF ME THAT I CAN HANDLE THIS AND THAT I’M GONNA BE OKAY, YOU KNOW?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *