Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health illness that can wreck individuals and families. Some studies calculate that it affects more than three percent of U.S. adults, but women (5.2 percent) outnumber men (1.8 percent). People aged 45-49 are most vulnerable, followed by 18 to 29-year-olds, then age 30-44, and people over 60 at about one percent. Nearly five percent of children age 13-18 also experience PTSD. Unfortunately, PTSD has morphed into something more complex and damaging.
Like PTSD and other mental health illnesses, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) has its own distinct characteristics. The rise of Complex PTSD usually occurs from feelings of powerlessness or captivity which persist for a long time instead of the length of one traumatic episode. Victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence, victims of sexual assault or repeated rapes, prisoners of war, and victims of many different stressors are prone to the disorder. Unlike PTSD, people experiencing Complex PTSD may endure emotional flashbacks.
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Most symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD are similarly treated, by a combination of group therapy, psychotherapy, or ketamine infusion therapy. Long after the incidents or trauma have ended, people with PTSD or complex PTSD can experience the following symptoms:
Unfortunately, people with CPTSD have all these symptoms with greater severity and including suicidal thoughts and constant depression.
Millions of people globally experience different traumas every year, with many able to handle the experience and continue with their lives. In America, about 8 million U.S. adults suffer from PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives.
Complex PTSD, which was added to the DSM-5 in 2013, is diagnosed the same as other mental health disorders. The patient will have a physical exam, then visit a therapist or psychologist for a psychological evaluation. During the psych exam, the patient will be encouraged to talk about thoughts, feelings, behaviors, family history of mental disorders, and previous instances of mental health problems. The outcome of either or both is then matched to DSM-5 criteria for CPTSD.
Though Complex PTSD is a relatively new clinical diagnosis, the therapy options often closely resemble the care that a patient with PTSD or another mental illness would receive. The normal options include psychotherapy, group therapy, self-help, hospitalization, or a combination of therapy plus medicine to control the symptoms. In most cases, you and your doctor or mental health provider will design therapy based on your physical and mental condition and one that offers the most comfort. The final decision is yours, so inquire about benefits, health risks, and the cost of treatment including insurance coverage.
Given that ketamine achieved popularity as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam conflict, it seems only fitting the drug is touted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a therapy for people experiencing PTSD and CPTSD.
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