Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that’s more common than you realize. It achieved clinical significance in the United States in the decade following the end of the war in Southeast Asia, as American combat troops returned from deployment with mental health issues that affected every aspect of their lives. But active duty and retired military aren’t the only people with PTSD. In fact, millions of U.S. adults – nearly seven to eight percent – will suffer from PTSD during their lives. Knowing what it means will help victims understand treatment options and how they work.
WHAT IS PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder “is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event,” per the Mayo Clinic.
WHAT DOES PTSD MEAN?
For many people suffering from PTSD, the condition means a life struggling with conflicting emotions, thoughts of loneliness, fear, loss of control. It represents a never-ending struggle to regain control. If you experience symptoms of PTSD, you may recognize them as:
- Intrusive memories
- Avoidance issues
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Difficulty handling physical and emotional reactions
- Intense feelings, similar to when the trauma happened
The duration and severity of symptoms often lead to the decision to get help eventually, but suicidal thoughts are a warning that you need immediate help.
“When we look up the criteria for PTSD, we see that it absolutely fits with what our first responders and medical personnel, and many of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, are experiencing,” says J.W. Freiberg, Ph.D., a Boston-based social psychologist and author. “We will have to observe what happens psychologically to COVID-19′s frontline medical workers, but I would predict a very significant incidence among them in the coming years, and at a very acute level. Preemptive clinical counseling will be crucial.”
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?
Like most mental health disorders, PTSD is equal opportunity, gladly taking hold of someone regardless of gender, faith, income, occupation. You may be susceptible to the condition if:
- You survived a mass-murder or other trauma.
- The trauma is repetitive with a long duration.
- You’re a medical professional or first responder caring for those afflicted with COVID-19.
- You have a history of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness among your blood relatives.
- You combat emotional distress with alcohol or misuse drugs to cope with symptoms.
- You’ve been clinically diagnosed with a mental illness.
- You have minimal emotional support to rely on.
KNOW THE TRIGGERS
If you live with PTSD you have constant reminders of trauma, with memories interfering with daily life and creating barriers to function normally. There are many triggers to be wary of, like people and locations which remind you of the event or weather extremes or seasonal changes.
HOW IS PTSD DIAGNOSED?
Diagnosing PTSD normally follows these steps:
- A medical doctor will conduct a physical exam to uncover any underlying medical issues.
- A mental health professional will perform a mental assessment while discussing symptoms and events or the trauma that happened beforehand.
- Your healthcare provider will compare your symptoms with criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
YOU CAN GET HELP
At their lowest, victims of PTSD feel as if they’re not meant to suffer, and that the pain they’re experiencing is deserved because of something they did wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can find therapy that works, such as self-help, group therapy, clinical trials, in-patient, out-patient, doctor-patient therapy, and other alternative options including ketamine infusion therapy. Other options:
- Some programs, like Cognitive therapy, seek to help patients who feel like they’re caught in a loop of symptoms like negative thoughts or flashbacks.
- Exposure therapy works to reduce physical or emotional distress the patient feels when confronted with a situation, memory, or objects related to the trauma.
- A therapist or doctor may recommend exposure therapy and guided eye movements that focus on how to process traumatic memories.
Researchers in the public and private sector have studied the success rate of using ketamine as a form of treatment, and the drug has shown promise in reducing symptoms of PTSD. Your doctor or therapist can offer a
treatment roadmap and answers about drug safety concerns.
PTSD is a mental health disorder affecting not only first responders and soldiers, but anyone who’s lived through a traumatic event. Its symptoms can be near debilitating, but they are manageable. Self-help options might offer relief, but a healthcare provider is better suited to treating PTSD before it’s too late.
If you or a loved one are dealing with the symptoms of PTSD we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the clinical use of ketamine. There is hope. We can help.