What Is PTSD? (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like war/combat, terrorist attack, a natural disaster, etc.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
- The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the longest combat operations since Vietnam. Many stressors face these Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) troops.
- OEF/OIF service members are at risk for death or injury. They may see others hurt or killed. They may have to kill or wound others. They are on alert around the clock. These and other factors can increase their chances of having PTSD or other mental health problems.
- For many service members, being away from home for long periods of time can cause problems at home or work. These problems can add to the stress. This may be even more so for National Guard and Reserve troops who had not expected to be away for so long. Almost half of those who have served in the current wars have been Guard and Reservists.
- Another cause of stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurs in the military. It can happen to men and women. MST can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
- One early study looked at the mental health of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study asked Soldiers and Marines about war-zone experiences and about their symptoms of distress. Soldiers and Marines in Iraq reported more combat stressors than Soldiers in Afghanistan. Soldiers and Marines who had more combat stressors had more mental health problems. Those who served in Iraq had higher rates of PTSD than those who served in Afghanistan.
- Later research has confirmed that to date, troops who served in Iraq are more likely to report mental health problems than troops who served in Afghanistan. A body of research shows a strong link between level of combat stress and PTSD.
- How does serving in OEF/OIF affect mental health?
- Research on OEF/OIF Veterans (1) suggests that 10% to 18% of OEF/OIF troops are likely to have PTSD after they return. In addition to PTSD, OEF/OIF service members are at risk for other mental health problems. Although studies vary widely in terms of methods used, estimates of depression in returning troops range from 3% to 25%. Excessive drinking and use of tobacco among OEF/OIF Veterans may also be problematic. Service members also report concerns over conflicts with others.
- Some research has looked at how the response to war stressors changes over time. PTSD symptoms are more likely to show up in returning OEF/OIF service members after a delay of several months. Using a brief PTSD screen, service members were assessed at their return and then again six months later. Service members were more likely to have a positive screen – that is, they showed more PTSD symptoms – at the later time.
- On the other hand, many service members who screened positive (had more PTSD symptoms) at their return showed fewer PTSD symptoms after six months. Overall, it should be noted that most returning service members screened negative for PTSD at both time points.
What increase the risk of PTSD in defense service members?
Research studies have found that certain factors make it more likely that defense service members will develop PTSD.
- Longer deployment time
- More severe combat exposure, such as:
- Deployment to “forward” areas close to the enemy
- Seeing others wounded or killed
- More severe physical injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Lower rank
- Lower level of schooling
- Low morale and poor social support within the unit
- Not being married
- Family problems
- Member of the National Guard or Reserves
- Prior trauma exposure
- Female gender
- Hispanic ethnic group
- Are service members getting mental health care?
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
There are many types’ symptoms.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
- Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.
What other problems do people with PTSD experience?
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Depression or anxiety
- Drinking or drug problems
- Physical symptoms or chronic pain
- Employment problems
- Relationship problems, including divorce
In many cases, treatments for PTSD will also help these other problems, because they are often related. The coping skills you learn in treatment can work for PTSD and these related problems.
General Medications for PTSD
Medications can be effective too. Some specific SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), which are used for depression, also work for PTSD. These include sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine.
IMPORTANT: Benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics should generally be avoided for PTSD treatment because they do not treat the core PTSD symptoms and can be addictive.
What can happen if PTSD is not treated?
When left untreated, the long-term effects of posttraumatic stress disorder can have a detrimental impact on a person’s life. People suffering from PTSD who do not receive treatment are also at risk for developing other mental health disorders or medical problems.
How can PTSD affect you?
For people with PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension.
Can you heal from PTSD?
There is no PTSD therapy that will be a ‘cure’ for every person with PTSD. … The ability to heal, or recover from PTSD or reduce the symptoms is dependent on many factors; the severity of the PTSD. Is the trauma a onetime trauma, or multiple trauma, or complex trauma?
Can PTSD go away on its own?
Usually, PTSD doesn’t just go away on its own. Without treatment, symptoms can last for months or years, or they may come and go in waves. … In some cases, medications can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, panic, or depression.
What can PTSD do to you?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Causes and Effects. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is brought on by witnessing a terrifying, usually life-threatening, event. Severe anxiety, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts and nightmares are common symptoms of the illness.
Can PTSD get worse over time?
Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. … PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms.
Is PTSD considered a disability?
Impairments that Qualify for PTSD Disability Benefits. Some disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder are approved by satisfying the Blue Book listing requirements under “Anxiety Disorders.”
How long can post traumatic stress disorder last for?
An even shorter answer is, “It depends.” But please note, although the median duration of PTSD is 3 – 5 years that is a median of all diagnosed cases. The median would be higher for chronic PTSD (longer than 3 months). Once PTSD lasts many months, there is a good chance it will last many more years
What does PTSD do to the brain?
Stress results in acute and chronic changes in neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which result in long-term changes in brain “circuits,” involved in the stress response. Brain regions that are felt to play an important role in PTSD include hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex.
Is anger a sign of PTSD?
That means the emotional and physical feelings of anger are more intense. If you have PTSD, you may often feel on edge, keyed up, or irritable. You may be easily provoked. This high level of arousal may cause you to actually seek out situations that require you to stay alert and ward off danger.
Can PTSD be permanent?
Contrary to what others may argue, these changes are not reversible. Psychological treatments do exist that are highly effective in teaching the PTSD patient how to cope with their symptoms and help improve their lives, but it does not negate or change the permanent brain damage that occurs from chronic PTSD.
Can stress cause permanent brain damage?
Cortisol has been shown to damage and kill cells in the hippocampus (the brain area responsible for your episodic memory) and there is robust evidence that chronic stress causes premature brain aging. Without cortisol you would die – but too much of it is not a good thing.
Can PTSD kill you?
That Which Does Not Kill You… May Give You PTSD. … But in reality, something that does not kill us can leave us seriously traumatized. When you go through a life-shattering experience, a very scary or tragic event, it can leave you with serious depression or anxiety issues—or even post-traumatic stress disorder
What is hyperarousal in PTSD?
As the name implies, hyperarousal is the consequence of heightened (hyper) anxiety and altered arousal responses and includes symptoms such as: Having a difficult time falling or staying asleep. Feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger. Having difficulty concentrating.
What percentage of veterans suffer from PTSD?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts: Almost 31percent of Vietnam veterans. As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans. 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
What percentage of veterans suffer from mental illness?
Veterans are returning with serious mental health issues. Of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 (20 percent) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression (RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, Invisible Wounds of War, 2008).
Veteran’s statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide
The following veterans statistics are from a major study done by the RAND Corporation, the Veterans Administration, the Institute of Medicine, the US Surgeon General, and several published studies.
Summary of Veterans Statistics for PTSD, TBI, Depression and Suicide.
- As of September 2014, there are about 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million “Vietnam Era Veterans” (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War)
- According to RAND, at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Military counselors I have interviewed state that, in their opinion, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is much higher; the number climbs higher when combined with TBI.)Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veteran with PTSD.
- A comprehensive analysis, published in 2014, found that for PTSD: “Among male and female soldiers aged 18 years or older returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, rates range from 9% shortly after returning from deployment to 31% a year after deployment. A review of 29 studies that evaluated rates of PTSD in those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan found prevalence rates of adult men and women previously deployed ranging from 5% to 20% for those who do not seek treatment, and around 50% for those who do seek treatment. Vietnam veterans also report high lifetime rates of PTSD ranging from 10% to 31%. PTSD is the third most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among veterans using the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.
- 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment
- out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment (RAND study)
- 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News)
- 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
- rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts
- In times of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.)
- recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought, as much as five to eight thousand a year (22 a day, up from a low of 18-a-year in 2007, based on a 2012 VA Suicide Data Report). (See suicide prevention page). Contrary to the impression many media articles give, veteran suicide rates, although definitely higher, are not astronomically higher than civilian rates. See New York Times 2013 article, “As Suicides Rise in US, Veterans are Less of total,” by James Dao.
- PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010)
- Recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. “Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.” Susan V. Eisner, PhD
- Oddly, statistics for veteran tobacco use are never reported alongside PTSD statistics, even though increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.
- More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)
- According to September 2015 New York Times articles, some branches of the military do not keep fine-grained data, or any data at all on the suicide rates (and this must mean on the mental health as a whole) of their veterans. There are “battalion epidemics” of suicide in the military, which much higher rates of suicide and mental health problems.
- desclaimer : /// Above data are gathered from all research work in USA and other parts of the World//