PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a mental illness which, although it is much more common than many people think, has been severely stigmatized in the past. In the early 20th century, soldiers who returned from World War 1 suffered a great deal from PTSD. In those days, this wasn’t a recognized illness and patients were pushed to the edges of society.
Thankfully, those days are long gone. But PTSD still isn’t well understood today. It is estimated that 7.8% of people in the United States will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. As is the case with most mental illnesses, women are twice as likely as men to experience it.
Today, PTSD is caused by many things other than war, although that it what it’s traditionally associated with. Common causes are:
The American Psychiatric Association first recognized PTSD for the first time in 1980. Before the term “PTSD” emerged in the United States, it had many nicknames. During the Civil War era it was known as “Soldier’s heart” . In the late 19th century people called it “railway spine”. And throughout the 20th century it was referred to as “shell shock”, “combat fatigue” or “war neurosis”.
In the year 1952, the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM, was published. In it, the “gross stress reaction” of PTSD patients was recognized as a set of problematic symptoms, but the term PTSD was not yet used. In the year 1980, the American Psychological Association included the PTSD diagnosis in DSM- III to categorized responses to traumatic events that clarify a set of criteria.
Since then our understanding of PTSD has grown exponentially with each year. Fortunately, this has resulted in a significant lessening of the stigma attached to it, although there is still much progress to be made in this regard. Nevertheless, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD have never been as sophisticated and accessible as they are today. Countless Americans have benefited from this progress.
As in the case of all mental illnesses, PTSD is highly individualized. This means that what causes PTSD for one person may not cause it for another. Two people who experience the exact same event will react in different ways. It also means that it can affect different people in different ways. Not everyone with PTSD will suffer from the same symptoms. This can make diagnosis more challenging.
The most common symptoms of PTSD include:
Typically, a person with PTSD will become very withdrawn. They often choose to isolate themselves from family and friends, and prefer to stay at home alone rather than socialize with others. If left untreated, PTSD will not get better on its own. It can be utterly debilitating, can lead to the patient losing his or her job, the breakdown of a marriage and far too often it ends in suicide. In the US, it is believed that one veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes.
Thankfully, there are more treatment options available to patients today than ever before. Depending on the patient, one treatment option may be preferable to another. Different methods also have varying efficacy on different patients, so trial and error is often necessary.
PTSD Psychotherapies: Psychotherapy is the most recommended method of treatment for PTSD patients. This involves visualizing, talking and thinking about the memory of the traumatic event which caused the illness in the first place. This type of therapy focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning, and empowers the patient to overcome the feelings triggered by it.
Many patients resist this treatment though. For them, the prospect of reliving their trauma over and over again is traumatic in itself. Many people also feel somewhat ashamed of their illness as a result of the social stigma attached to it. Studies have show however, that those patients who do opt for psychotherapy have a much higher chance of full and lasting recovery.
Antidepressants for PTSD: Antidepressant medications are very common among PTSD patients. Antidepressants can facilitate psychotherapy by pulling the patient back from suicidal thoughts so that they are emotionally capable of engaging in psychotherapy. This kind of combination therapy is the most common method for treating PTSD.
There are two types of antidepressant medication used for this purpose; Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Both types reduce anxiety, anger, depression, and fear.
PTSD Support Groups: Support from friends and family is absolutely essential for a PTSD patient to recover from their illness fully and in the long term. However, there are many support groups today that provide this service for patients and their families. Support groups can be enormously helpful to patients as they provide a sense of security, solidarity and empathy.
CBD is an oil which is extracted from the cannabis plant. However, this oil doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects, or “high”. Research has shown CBD to be a viable treatment for a range of mental illnesses, including PTSD. This is because CBD acts as a mood stabilizer.
It regulates the brain and the release of certain hormones through the endocannabinoid system. CBD has also been proven to help with sleep, which is a major problem for PTSD patients. PTSD is an indescribably challenging condition. For those who have never experienced it, it can be hard to fully grasp its severity, or the severity of its effects on a patients daily life.
Since it was first recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, the way society has viewed and treated PTSD and those who suffer with it has changed dramatically. This has been long overdue, especially considering the illness is so common. Hopefully this trend will continue and patients will have greater chances of living happy and healthy lives.