NEW ORLEANS -- Reports are surfacing about the mental health of the man who killed three officers in Baton Rouge.
CNN reports that Gavin Long, who was shot dead by police, told friends and relatives that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).
Long served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years as a data network specialist and was deployed to Iraq.
CNN reports Long had prescriptions for anxiety and sleep problems, and local experts, who have not treated Long, said those are symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD is no longer considered an anxiety disorder. Experts said it's significantly different and have moved it into its own mental illness classification. In fact, doctors now know patients brains are structurally different in many ways, changing thoughts, reactions and behavior. The thinking part of the brain has diminished function over the hyper-emotional part of the brain. Changes can happen from physical brain damage.
"You're going to see individuals coming in that are vehicular accidents. You're going to see individuals that have been shot. A large percentage of those individuals are going to go on to develop PTSD. Same thing with combat vets," explained Psychologist Dr. Nick Gilpin, who is an expert in the psychobiology of traumatic stress disorders and addictive disorders. Gilpin is also an Associate Professor of Physiology at LSU Health Sciences Center where he is the Associate Director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence.
Brain changes can also happen at any age from psychological trauma like abuse, major events such as a hurricane, or living in areas that have high crime.
"Think about the World Trade Center for example on 9-11 when those went down," Gilpin said. "I mean, people were diagnosed with PTSD that were either there, that knew someone, that saw it on television."
Gilpin said many try to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs which make brain functions worse.
"I definitely think it's under treated, and I definitely think it's under diagnosed," he explained.
After failed treatments in other parts of the country, veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury have been coming to New Orleans to get hyperbaric oxygen treatments with Dr. Paul Harch, Emergency Medicine specialist and Chief of Hyperbarics at LSU Health Sciences Center, who says just about all have reduced symptoms.
"They had a decrease in nightmares, avoidance. They were able to go out in public now. They were more social now. They had less of the intrusive thoughts and they felt better," Harch said.
PTSD symptoms include emotional numbing, social avoidance, intrusive memories and nightmares, avoiding social situations or things related to the trauma and being hyper-aroused like always ready for fight or flight.
PTSD treatments include medications, cognitive therapy, and treating the lack of sleep.
People with a brain injury with or without mild PTSD can join a free hyperbaric oxygen study at (504) 427-5632, or by visiting their website, hbottbistudy.org.
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