War is not what it used to be. That much we know. The next question begs, how we deal with the psychological ramifications of our current era of warfare? There are many different ways we, as a society, have responded. Friends and family welcome our soldiers with open arms with hope that love can help heal a lot. Organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project offer holistic assistance furnished with a myriad of resources. Companies like ours offer innovative sensory and scenting technology to help prepare.
But we still have a growing group of people left affected. The statistics of post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D) are largely contextual, age related, gender focused and culturally based. A childhood filled with abuse, having little family support, being a minority (including being a woman) and/or being young are pre-dispositions for an adverse reaction to a traumatic situation.
Other types of trauma aside, what we’re interested in are the demographics for our current soldiers. The valor in the intention of sacrifice aside, we have to ask, how vulnerable are these men and women that defend our freedom? Although young, white males make up a good 75% of our soldiers, minorities are climbing the ranks to populate almost 30% of total current enlisted. Taken from a Wikipedia article that attempts to reference the number of minorities that fought for America during WWII: “Statistics are extremely difficult to compile since contemporary classifications and the Army’s interest in data rarely match modern interests,” we are left with minimal sources.
At SensoryCo, we have experience enhancing immersive training environments for military, medical, fire and search and rescue among other disciplines. The purpose of our technologies are to inoculate trainees against the horrors that could be so that when faced with the most chaotic scenarios, they are equipped with the skills to cope. This is a far reaching goal, one that has little objective data to support as the methods are relatively new. We have heard many anecdotes that offer exciting relief in the preparation for modern day warfare and this helps catalyze our scenting technology design, but recent work in experimental psychology offers even more hope for our soldiers after they’ve returned from the battlefield.
If we are to seriously address the issue of P.T.S.D., it is our intention to approach the issue from both sides.
With the emergence of technologies aimed to stimulate the senses, in this case scenting technologies, inoculation doesn’t have to be our only tool.
Dr. “Skip” Rizzo has headed the development of what he calls Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy. In a study released in 2008, Rizzo and his co-author and researcher T.D. Parsons examine the affective ramifications of recreating the terrifying environments in order to kill the root of their disorder and allow them to lead a normal life with normal stress responses. The researchers explain, “A good deal of research has shown that exposure therapy is effective for reducing negative affective symptoms (Rothbaum & Schwartz, 2002). In vivo exposure therapy has been found to have greater efﬁcacy when compared to imaginal exposure, especially in the treatment of speciﬁc phobias (Emmelkamp, 2003). Exposure to emotional situations and prolonged rehearsal result in the regular activation of cerebral metabolism in brain areas associated with inhibition of maladaptive associative processes (Schwartz, 1998). Identical neural circuits have been found to be involved in affective regulation across affective disorders (De Raedt, 2006; Mineka, Watson, & Clark, 1998). Systematic and controlled therapeutic exposure to phobic stimuli may enhance emotional regulation through adjustments of inhibitory processes on the amygdala by the medial prefrontal cortex during exposure and structural changes in the hippocampus after successful therapy (Hariri, Bookheimer, & Mazziotta, 2000).”
It is not enough to imagine one is in danger, you must feel that the danger is real before you can make friends with it.
Our tag line is “see.feel.smell.real.” and we do not take this sentiment lightly. Scenting technology’s use does not stop at the training ranges, but should be used as well in progressive therapies (much like Dr. Rizzo’s) to address the overwhelming reality that P.T.S.D. hides, like a shadow, within our society.
War is an unnecessary evil. If we are to send our youngest and brightest out to defend us, we must offer help for when they come back. Not all death is physical.