Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is short for post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatizing event. Examples of common triggers for PTSD include natural disasters, vehicular accidents, war or live combat, or violent personal assault.
After experiencing a traumatic event, it is completely expected that a person will have some difficulty adjusting and coping with what they have been through. If these symptoms of anxiety and stress do not go away with time and begin to interfere with your ability to function in everyday life, you may be suffering from PTSD.
PTSD was first identified as “shell shock” in World War I and referred to as “combat fatigue” after World War II, but PTSD affects more than just veterans. As many as one in eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD usually begin to show within a month of the traumatic event, but sometimes they may not appear for years. These symptoms will significantly disrupt your daily life, affecting everything from work performance to personal relationships.
PTSD symptoms can typically be divided into one of four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. These symptoms are not mutually exclusive and can vary between each case of PTSD.
The symptoms of intrusive memories often include the following:
Unwanted and traumatic memories of the event
Flashbacks to the traumatic event, as if you are living through it again
Nightmares or recurring dreams about the event
Emotional distress or physical reactions to things that remind you of the traumatic event
Avoidance is pretty self-explanatory. Symptoms may include:
- Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event you went through
- Avoiding anything, anywhere, or anyone that reminds you of the event
Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
Symptoms may include the following:
- Negative thoughts about yourself or the world in general
- A sense of hopelessness about future events
- Trouble remembering things
- Withdrawing socially and trouble to maintain close relationships
- Social and emotional detachment
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things you used to enjoy
- Feelings of hollowness or being emotionally numb
Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
Signs of changes in physical and emotional reactions can include the
- Being on edge or easily startled
- Being on guard for danger at all times
- Self-destructive behavior like substance abuse
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Angry outbursts
- Feelings of guilt or shame
Treatment for PTSD
PTSD is a debilitating and unforgiving condition, but it is not without hope for the future. Many treatments, both old and new, are available and can help you find relief from your symptoms.
For decades, the go-to treatments have been psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, but new treatments like ketamine may signal a shift to a new era of PTSD treatment.
Ketamine for PTSD
Ketamine, first approved by the FDA as an anesthetic, has been shown in recent years to treat mood disorders like PTSD with rapid results. Ketamine is thought to play a role in the treatment of mood disorders through its influence on glutamate, a neurotransmitter that mediates the response to stress and traumatic memories.