People who survive a traumatic event usually have an adjustment period in the aftermath before their lives return to normal. They may have bad dreams or avoid places that act as reminders, but over time begin functioning like they did before. If they can’t, they may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
WHAT IS PTSD?
The U.S. National Institutes of Health says, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.”
These feelings are normal when a trauma happens and afterward. Bodily changes triggered by fear culminate in a “fight-or-flight” response to defend against danger. Nearly everyone reacts differently after trauma, but most recover eventually. Symptoms can often be managed with an innovative new treatment called ketamine infusion therapy.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE PTSD?
You may have PTSD if you experience any of the following after a trauma:
- Intrusive memories – recurring, unwanted, and distressing flashbacks; horrific nightmares; and severe emotional responses triggered through reminders.
- Avoiding conversations or thoughts which are reminders of the trauma.
- Negative thoughts about one’s self, others and the world; trouble remembering; failed personal relationships; feelings of detachment; disinterest in favorite pastimes; can’t accept positive emotions; emotionally cold or distant.
- Changes in emotional and physical reactions, like being easily frightened or surprised; anticipating danger; unconcerned with personal safety; mentally unfocused, problems sleeping; debilitating shame or guilt for surviving a deadly event.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE PTSD?
PTSD can afflict anyone who’s survived a trauma, regardless of age, gender, or other socioeconomic markers. It’s a serious mental health condition that affects people in all walks of life, from medical professionals to teachers, victims of domestic violence, and everyone in between. In the United States, it is estimated that about 3.6 percent of adults – roughly 5.2 million – had PTSD in 2018, with women twice as likely as men to suffer from the condition.
Globally, the numbers are more frightening. According to Health Research Funding, about 7.5 percent of people worldwide will experience PTSD at least once.
WHAT CAUSES PTSD?
A person can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after going through, seeing, or learning about an incident resulting in real or threatened death, severe injury, or sexual abuse. We’re not certain why some people get PTSD, but the condition probably results from a noxious brew of any of the following:
Tense experiences, including the severity and extent of trauma.
There’s a history of mental disorders in your family, particularly among blood relatives who’ve experienced anxiety and depression.
Your personality type or temperament makes you susceptible to mental illness.
How chemicals and hormones are regulated in your brain when responding to stress.
RISK FACTORS FOR PTSD
Not everyone who survives a trauma unscathed will get PTSD, but those who experience injuries could shoulder the burden of any of these risk markers described by the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Physical attack
- Front line battle
- Childhood abandonment or child abuse
- Abuse or assault
- Dangerous life experiences, such as car accidents, medical emergencies, or home invasion
- Getting hurt
- Seeing someone else injured
- Childhood pain
- Feelings of panic, helplessness, extreme fear
- Absence of social support following the trauma
- Dealing with anxiety after the trauma, like a broken marriage, death of a family member, financial ruin
- History of mental illness or substance abuse
HOW TO DIAGNOSE AND TREAT PTSD
Like other mental illnesses, PTSD is normally diagnosed following a three-step approach. First, a medical doctor will perform a complete physical examination to determine your health and underlying conditions which may have led to PTSD and review your medical history. Second, a mental health professional will assess your mental wellness, asking about thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and you and your family history of mental illness. Finally, your doctor will provide a diagnosis after comparing test results with criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Successful treatment of PTSD often involves a combination of psychotherapy, self-help, and the use of medication like ketamine to manage its symptoms. Treatment sometimes involves short-term hospitalization.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people globally. It can’t be cured but its symptoms can be controlled if you recognize them soon enough. If you think you’re suffering from PTSD, contact us today to learn more about the clinical use of ketamine to help treat the symptoms of PTSD.