**Warning: This article contents content that may be triggering for some readers**
When Is It Time to Get Help For My Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
If you’ve been through significant trauma, it can be easy to dismiss it as just another difficult part of life to deal with. Since the pandemic began, medical centers have been reporting all-time high stress levels among the general population. But doctors who’ve seen a lot of post-traumatic stress patients have observed that neglecting this condition can be harmful. Not only can your mental health deteriorate, these issues can wreak havoc on someone’s physical health, too.
Identifying Types of PTSD
A common misconception about PTSD is that it only affects military service members and veterans who have returned from war. This myth can be misleading and potentially dangerous, as it can cause the recognition of symptoms and treatment to be delayed.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), between 11-20 out of every 100 veterans report PTSD. Veterans don’t necessarily experience more trauma; however. Over half of the general population reports experiencing trauma, and a portion of that percentage develops PTSD;about 5.2 million adults experience symptoms of PTSD in a given year. In the United States, It may be surprising to learn that motor vehicle accidents are actually one of the leading causes of PTSD.
PTSD Among Veterans
According to the VA, other factors in a combat situation can add additional stress to an already stressful situation. This may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what a soldier does in the war, politics around the war, where the war was fought, and the type of enemy faced.
Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while a member is in the military. MST can happen to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
For decades, veterans have pushed for recognition and further research into the intense struggle of PTSD. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) added PTSD to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). The focus on veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with PTSD greatly increased the awareness among the general population and has led to new research projects, largely funded by the Department of Defense.
PTSD Among Non-Veterans
PTSD is the same disease among non-veterans. The precipitating traumas and specific symptoms may be different, but millions of veterans and civilians live with PTSD.
About 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women experience at least one trauma in their livetime. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
Some situations that may lead to PTSD in non-veterans include domestic abuse and violence, childhood physical and emotional abuse and neglect, natural disasters, rape and sexual assault, crime, physical violence, being threatened with a weapon, transportation accidents, witnessing violence or death, traumatic death of a close friend or family member, exposure to suicide, kidnapping, or other risks or perceived risks of serious injury or loss of life.
Rape & PTSD
The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 5, or 19.3%, of women have been raped. Nearly 44 percent of women and 23 percent of men have experienced some other form of sexual violence. For reasons not understood by researchers, more rape victims develop PTSD than do combat veterans. Many survivors suffer the effects of rape or sexual assault for the rest of their lives.
The most pervasive psychological consequence of sexual assault is PTSD, according to recent research. The study compared the effects of different types of traumatic events, and results suggested that the experience of a sexual assault may be more likely to lead to PTSD than other types of traumatic events. In this study, almost half (45%) of the women who reported having experienced a rape met the symptom criteria for PTSD, as opposed to less than 40% of men who had experienced combat.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition where a patient experiences some symptoms of PTSD along with difficulty controlling emotions, or feeling irrationally angry or distrustful towards the world. Currently, the psych world disagrees about whether this is a form of PTSD or an entirely separate condition, and, if so, what it should be called.
CPTSD patients often experience “emotional flashbacks” that produce the same intense feelings originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame, sadness, or despair. People with CPTSD might react to events in the present as if they are causing these feelings, without realising that they are having a flashback. Situations that can cause CPTSD may include childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment, ongoing domestic violence or abuse, witnessing violence or abuse, being forced or manipulated into prostitution, or torture, kidnapping, or slavery.
Patients are more likely to experience CPTSD if the trauma occurred at an early age or lasted for a long time, escape or rescue seemed unlikely or impossible, there were multiple separate traumas, or the harm was done by a trusted friend or family member.
Treatment Options for PTSD
While the root cause of PTSD is a traumatic event, the symptoms tend to be what overwhelms patients to the point where it negatively impacts their lives. PTSD sufferers often have recurring, distressing and upsetting memories and flashbacks of their trauma. These continually upsetting memories can be difficult to stop. Other troublesome symptoms might include night sweats, insomnia, panic attacks, paranoia, and self-isolation from friends and family. These symptoms can have a detrimental impact on the lives of those suffering from PTSD, and potentially their loved ones as well.
Treatment for PTSD can vary from person to person, depending on the type of PTSD diagnosed, and the symptoms it produces. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) currently recommends two types of talk therapy treatment for PTSD:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT), a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically adapted for PTSD.
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). This newer treatment can reduce PTSD symptoms such as being easily startled. It involves making rhythmic eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. The rapid eye movements are intended to create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping.
- Cannabis: Two recent studies point to the way cannabinoids may help treat PTSD. One shows how cannabis can reduce activity in the amygdala – a part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats.The second study suggests that cannabinoids could play a role in extinguishing traumatic memories.
Duber Medical can help PTSD sufferers obtain their legal medical marijuana card so that they may try cannabis to treat their symptoms. Additionally, Duber Medical will soon offer easy and affordable mental health counseling. Duber Psychiatry can help whether you suffer from anxiety, grief, depression, stress, self-esteem issues, relationship issues, and even diet and eating disorders.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.