When Is It Time to Get Help For My Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
If you’ve been through significant trauma, it can be easy to dismiss it as just another difficult part of life to deal with. Since the pandemic began, medical centers have been reporting all-time high stress levels among the general population. But doctors who’ve seen a lot of post-traumatic stress patients have observed that neglecting this condition can be harmful. Not only can your mental health deteriorate, these issues can wreak havoc on someone’s physical health, too.
Identifying Types of PTSD
A common misconception about PTSD is that it only affects military service members and veterans who have returned from war. This myth can be misleading and potentially dangerous, as it can cause the recognition of symptoms and treatment to be delayed.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), between 11-20 out of every 100 veterans report PTSD. Veterans don’t necessarily experience more trauma; however. Over half of the general population reports experiencing trauma, and a portion of that percentage develops PTSD;about 5.2 million adults experience symptoms of PTSD in a given year. In the United States, It may be surprising to learn that motor vehicle accidents are actually one of the leading causes of PTSD.
PTSD Among Veterans
According to the VA, other factors in a combat situation can add additional stress to an already stressful situation. This may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what a soldier does in the war, politics around the war, where the war was fought, and the type of enemy faced.
Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while a member is in the military. MST can happen to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
For decades, veterans have pushed for recognition and further research into the intense struggle of PTSD. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added PTSD to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Careful study on veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with PTSD greatly increased the awareness among the general population. It has led to new research projects, largely funded by the Department of Defense.
PTSD Among Non-Veterans
PTSD is the same disease among non-veterans. The precipitating traumas and specific symptoms may be different, but millions of veterans and civilians live with PTSD.
About 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women experience at least one trauma in their livetime. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
Some situations that may lead to PTSD in non-veterans include domestic abuse and violence, childhood physical and emotional abuse and neglect, natural disasters, rape and sexual assault, crime, physical violence, being threatened with a weapon, transportation accidents, witnessing violence or death, traumatic death of a close friend or family member, exposure to suicide, kidnapping, or other risks or perceived risks of serious injury or loss of life.
Rape & PTSD
The CDC reports that nearly 1 in 5, or 19.3%, of women have been raped. Nearly 44 percent of women and 23 percent of men have experienced some other form of sexual violence. For reasons not understood by researchers, more rape victims develop PTSD than do combat veterans. Many survivors suffer the effects of rape or sexual assault for the rest of their lives.
The most pervasive psychological consequence of sexual assault is PTSD, according to recent research. The study compared the effects of different types of traumatic events, and results suggested that the experience of a sexual assault may be more likely to lead to PTSD than other types of traumatic events. In this study, almost half (45%) of the women who reported having experienced a rape met the symptom criteria for PTSD, as opposed to less than 40% of men who had experienced combat.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD or CPTSD) patients experience some symptoms of PTSD. However, they also suffer with difficulty controlling emotions or feeling irrationally angry or distrustful toward the world. Currently, the psych world disagrees about whether this is a form of PTSD or an entirely separate condition. And, if so, what the condition should be called.
CPTSD patients often experience “emotional flashbacks”. These produce the same intense feelings originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame, sadness, or despair. People with CPTSD might react to events in the present as if they are causing these feelings. They often don’t even realize that they are having a flashback. CPTSD may be triggered by childhood abuse, neglect, abandonment, or ongoing domestic violence or abuse. Other CPTSD patients may have witnessed violence or abuse, experienced being forced or manipulated into prostitution, or torture, kidnapping, or slavery.
Patients are more likely to experience CPTSD if the trauma occurred at an early age, or spanned childhood into adulthood. They may also have feared that rescue or escape seemed unlikely or impossible. There may have been multiple separate traumas, or the harm was done by a trusted friend or family member.
Treatment Options for PTSD
While the root cause of PTSD is a traumatic event, the after-effects overwhelm patients to the point where it negatively impacts their lives. PTSD sufferers often have recurring, distressing and upsetting memories and flashbacks of their trauma. These continually upsetting memories can be difficult to stop. Other troublesome symptoms might include night sweats, insomnia, panic attacks, paranoia, and self-isolation from friends and family. These symptoms can have a detrimental impact on the lives of those suffering from PTSD. Potentially, it can affect their loved ones as well.
Treatment for PTSD can vary from person to person, depending on the type of PTSD diagnosed, and the symptoms it produces. Treatments might include:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically adapted for PTSD.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This newer treatment can reduce PTSD symptoms such as being easily startled. It involves making rhythmic eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. These rapid eye movements create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping.
- Cannabis: Two recent studies point to the way cannabinoids may help treat PTSD. One shows how cannabis can reduce activity in the amygdala. The amygdala’s a part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats. The second study suggests that cannabinoids could play a role in extinguishing traumatic memories.
How Can I Get Help?
Talk to your health care team about whether it’s the right time to get help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). MedicateOH partner Duber Medical is one of many Ohio physicians’ office that helps PTSD sufferers. They can evaluate you online and help you obtain a legal medical marijuana card. Reach out to us at medicateOH@gmail.com with further questions or to be matched with a physician in your area.
Help MedicateOH continue to do reporting on patients who are healing their trauma with cannabis. Donations are tax-deductible and will benefit future patient education initiatives.
Great articles and mention of cPTSD and mention of the systemic physical effects of unresolved trauma. I think the holistic connection is so often overlooked. Fascinating that cannabis can calm the primitive amygdala! Thank you for your always thoughtful content.
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