Effectively preventing PTSD (with dogs)

It is estimated that the number of people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is greater than the number of people who live in Texas, costing the government (the taxpayer) literally billions.

Many solutions have been proposed, mostly looking how to cure an individual of it once an individual has it. Far less frequent are solutions that look at keeping individuals from developing PTSD in the first place. This is where we are going to focus.

One way to avoid PTSD is to avoid getting into wars, but this seems unfeasible for our government. :p Another way is to lower the number of instances of individuals who develop PTSD after experiencing the horrors of war. For instance, research is beginning to examine the efficacy of distracting trauma victims, which keeps them from remembering the events and developing PTSD. But the President’s Council on Bioethics decided that changing people’s memories is ethically unsound and other solutions need to be found.

And this is where dogs come in. Kind, loving, sweet dogs. All one needs to do is a simple youtube or google search for ‘dog soldier reunite’ for evidence of this special bond. If we can better incorporate dogs into the armed forces, they can provide the distraction and positive affect needed to keep soldiers from consolidating those traumatic memories without the need of medications.

Now, dogs are already used for a variety of tasks, for instance to sniff out landmines and find people, but these dogs can also provide an important source of strength and love for soldiers as they are far from home, especially after they have witnessed something traumatic.

It is actually relatively simple. Dogs, especially shelter dogs, can be transported, raised, and maintained on base, part of whose job it is to play with soldiers and cheer them up (like the children in the hospitals). To distract them and make them smile, especially just after returning from traumatic situations.

In this way, soldiers are prevented from forming memories about the terrible things that happen in war (again, let’s not get into wars in the first place! 😀 ). This solution  can stem the tide of PTSD while avoiding the ethically unsound of biologically changing the way an individual’s brain works AND helping shelter dogs not be put down (just ship them off to war instead!).

But really, it seems to be good on both ends. Also, as soldiers develop relationships with these dogs, the dogs are likely to find good homes after they have served their tour of duty (perhaps soldiers will even help pay for the dogs?).

Obviously, research would have to be done concerning how effective the program is, but if it could prevent even 10% of soldiers from contracting PTSD it would save the government and taxpayers millions, as PTSD is currently estimated to cost society 42.3 Billion each year


What do you think? is it feasible? I need some business people to go over it. 



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On nudging the nudgers.

Nudge. :p

Science and Psychology are being used more and more the design ‘nudges’ which influence people’s decisions for their own or the group’s good . Unfortunately, the work of these scientists is oftentimes underutilized because the policy makers, for whatever reason, do not act on it. These people can be the CEO’s of companies, teachers in classrooms, or our elected officials in the official government.

The key then, is to understand what factors motivate these individuals (the decision makers), and nudge them into doing the right thing. For instance, efficacy (thinking that the intervention will actually work) is one of the strongest predictors of engaging with the desired behavior (someone who thinks they can quit smoking, can).

Are the same things that guide individuals guiding policy makers? If policy makers feel like it will work (they have our data, afterall), will it? If so, why are our messages, based upon empirical science and published in reputable journals, not enough? Work can be done (has probably been done) to examine what motivates the decisions of leaders, and this work should be utilized to inform our correspondence with them for success.

Basically, scientists who focus on desiring to nudge the public into better decisions also need to focus on making sure that the interventions are implemented. Work gathering knowledge about how leaders make decisions could be useful in filling this need.

The best and most empirically founded nudges are worthless if they are not implemented, let’s make sure they get implemented.

What is your favorite nudge?  Also, do you have any good pictures of nudges? They are difficult to find. 😦


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Remember to be opined everyone, because your opinion matters.