Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Mental health disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affect millions of Americans today, yet these disorders are among the most misunderstood and hidden conditions around. Those who struggle with PTSD and other mental illness know how debilitating and life-altering a mental health disorder can be, and it is important that we create awareness about the issue and encourage those in need of help to find that help as soon as possible.
Statistics of Mental Illness
Mental illness is more common than many people think. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health:
Causes of PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that is caused by a traumatic event or events that a person experiences or witnesses. Not everyone who goes through something traumatic will develop this disorder and the events that cause this disorder can range in severity. It depends on how the individual processes or doesn’t process the event, and how they react to the situation.
Individuals who are at greater risk for developing PTSD include those who have been through a life-threatening trauma, or who have seen someone get hurt severely or killed. These individuals likely felt horror and helplessness while the event was occurring, and many had little social support after the event. It is important to note that there is no way to judge whether or not an event is severe enough to cause PTSD; what is traumatic for one person might not be for another. We mostly associate PTSD with war veterans who have been in combat, those who lived through a scary attack or natural disaster, or those who lost a loved one in a terrifying way. However, PTSD can also occur as the result of events of bullying, a car accident, sexual or physical abuse, or even seeing traumatic events on television.
Researchers have found that there are resilience factors that may help reduce the risk of someone developing PTSD after a traumatic event. Individuals who have a support system after the event and who seek out help from friends, family, and professionals, are less likely to develop PTSD. Those who have healthy coping strategies and are able to respond to the event in a way that doesn’t make them feel helpless may also reduce the risk of the person developing PTSD.
Statistics of PTSD
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans By Service Era
Among veterans, the numbers are even higher. The number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs):
The National Institutes of Mental Health summarizes the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing PTSD. Symptoms are categorized as:
- Re-experiencing symptoms such as flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts;
- Avoidance symptoms such as staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience and avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the event;
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms such as being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge,” and having difficulty sleeping;
- Cognition and mood symptoms such as trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted feelings like guilt or blame, and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
In order for the condition to be considered PTSD, the individual must have all of the following for at least one month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
Mental health disorders like PTSD often go hand in hand with substance abuse. This is often because the individual tries to self-medicate their emotional pain and stress away with drugs or alcohol. This only compounds the problem, and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. SAMHSA estimates that among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.
Treatment of PTSD
There is help for PTSD sufferers. The condition is most effectively treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Medications, such as antidepressants and sleep aids, can help address some of the symptoms of the disorder. Therapy helps the person heal mentally and emotionally from the traumatic event.
Studies have shown that therapy is more important for the ongoing recovery from PTSD than medication. Psychotherapy sessions with a trusted professional will provide the individual with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral techniques to address the trauma and work through the past events.
PTSD is a serious disorder and it can devastate a person’s life if not treated. But recovery is possible and help is more widely available now than ever before. If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from PTSD, contact a treatment facility today to find out how rehab can help.
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