Years after your deployment, you consider yourself “lucky,” having never experienced direct, deadly combat. However, the traumatic events you witnessed have left a permanent mark on you and your psyche. PTSD can affect anyone, from frontline combat personnel to aircraft mechanics, police, medical personnel, and anyone who has survived a traumatic event.
What Is PTSD?
The Mayo Clinic defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Someone who survives a traumatic event may have short-term trouble adjusting and coping, but time and self-care often result in them getting better. Worsening and persistent, long-term symptoms could indicate you have PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms may begin within a month of trauma and may not show until years following the event. The symptoms can result in considerable work or social situations and relationships problems. They can also restrict your means to achieve routine daily tasks. Avoidance is just one symptom.
What Triggers PTSD?
If you’ve survived a traumatic event that has led to PTSD, you may have triggers that bring back memories of the event. You could remember something that happened before or during the trauma and suddenly feel the pressure of symptoms like fear, anger, or avoidance. PTSD triggers may include:
- Thoughts and emotions
- Objects which act as a reminder
- Scents or odors
- Popular media
- Feelings or sensations like pain
- Situations like being stuck in a crowd that’s very agitated
- Words or phrases
“People respond to traumatic events in a number of ways. They may feel concerned, anger, fear, or helplessness,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These are all normal responses to a malicious, traumatic, or violent event. Research proves that someone who’s been through hardship, loss, or trauma in their past is more likely to be affected by new, potentially traumatic events than someone else.
PTSD and Other Related Conditions
According to some studies, 80 percent of people who have PTSD will experience a simultaneous psychiatric illness at least once in their lives. Symptoms of each may be different but can often be managed with treatments like ketamine. Some related conditions include:
- Substance abuse disorders, which include drug and alcohol misuse.
- Depression or major depressive disorder, which the World Health Organization calls one of the top global causes for disability.
- Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.
- Neurocognitive issues.
- Borderline personality disorder, characterized by poor personal relationships, intense anger, and other problems.
- Physical health problems.
Does PTSD Go Away on its Own?
Like other mental health conditions, PTSD doesn’t “go away” independently and can’t be cured in the traditional sense. People who’ve survived a traumatic experience may only suffer occasional episodes of flashbacks and avoidance, for instance, years after the event before they become constant and unmanageable. And it’s not like sadness or “the blues,” which have common triggers (a bad day at work or disagreement with a loved one), things which resolve themselves with little intervention.
How To Diagnose PTSD
PTSD diagnosis depends on:
- A physical examination and battery of tests to look for underlying causes.
- A psychiatric evaluation, where you and a clinician will explore your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and personal and family history of PTSD or related conditions. You also may be asked to fill out a questionnaire.
The most common and widely accepted treatment for PTSD and other mental illnesses is a combination of in-patient and out-patient psychotherapy, self-help, light or therapy, and certain medications. A doctor or other mental health specialist is best suited to diagnose your condition and recommend treatment, but ultimately the decision is yours. Before agreeing to any kind of treatment, educate yourself on the condition and the solution that’s offered, so you make an informed decision.
Ketamine For PTSD
Ketamine, a treatment originally used as surgical anesthesia, is now believed to help treat people experiencing symptoms of PTSD and other mental illnesses. Years of research have shown it to be effective in helping soothe faulty neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby giving patients more control of their moods and PTSD symptoms.
PTSD can affect anyone, not just people who fought in wars. If you survived a dangerous or deadly event and found yourself struggling with the memories, you may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Luckily, many of its worst symptoms are treatable with in-patient or out-patient therapy or treatment like ketamine.