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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health disorder that affects a vast amount of people in the United States. PTSD likely goes back as far as humanity itself, given that it is a mental disorder that stems from any type of traumatic or significant event in one’s life. PTSD is very serious and commonly misunderstood due to the fact that it is a mental disorder. Mental disorders are especially tricky, sometimes they can have an unknown origin in a specific patient, and most don’t have any consistently successful treatments. There is almost never a set way to deal with a victim of a mental disorder, due to the fact that any patients with the same diagnosis will still have vastly different experiences than on another. PTSD is very unique in that way, a patient suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, would have to be dealt with in a very different way than most, even if they are all suffering from the same disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very malicious disease, thousands upon thousands of people are affected by it each day with no signs of slowing down and no clear ways to treat it. Our best hope in treating PTSD is understanding it.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic past experience in one’s life or even in the life of people around them. This condition is commonly found in, but most certainly not limited to military veterans. This is due to the fact that of all the people in most civilizations, those who fight in wars often see things that most people only see in glorified movies or stories. Most experiences that lead to PTSD are moments of great fear or helplessness, like the feeling of impending doom, being trapped in a spot where death feels imminent, or in a position where death was almost guaranteed. But not all cases of PTSD can be traced back to a single moment, these experiences can be moments that last days or even months. Drivers of military vehicles in war zones are constantly vigilant and looking out for IEDs, then when they get home they cause an accident because they swerved away from a plastic bag on the freeway. Post-traumatic stress disorder often includes symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety. All of which is due to the brain bringing people back to that feeling of impending doom. It’s mainly caused by the lack of ability humans have to cope with things they’ve seen or done.
As evolution occurred in our species, at one point we developed highly functioning brains, and though our brains continue to evolve, we are still met with things that cannot be fully understood or explained. Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the many conditions of the brain that still reign terror on humanity. WW1 soldiers were the first known victims of PTSD, but back then it was referred to as “shell shock”. As men would return from the war, some with obvious physical injuries and some without, a commonality between all of them were symptoms that were similar to those which had been associated with “hysterical women”. English physician Charels Myers wrote the first essay on “Shell Shock” in 1915. He theorized that these symptoms shown by soldiers were results of physical injury to the brain. Assuming that it was due to the blast from bombs. After testing his theory, it didn’t hold up. Even soldiers who hadn’t been exposed to blasts from bombs still showed symptoms of shell shock, and on top of that, not all soldiers who were exposed showed any symptoms of shell shock. Today we are able to realize that these soldiers were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. However, even though WW1 soldiers were the first recorded victims of PTSD, with an understanding of what post-traumatic stress disorder is, it’s obvious that it goes back much, much further than the “first documented case”. Wars go back as far as humanity itself, and on top of that, traumatic experiences are not limited to time as far back as we can record. For thousands of years man has had to survive without the help of the luxuries we have today. Man had to fight to survive, and though we have been at the top of the food chain for a very, very long time, it was not always as easy as it is today. Today we can go to the grocery store and buy an already cut piece of meat with no issue, however back then there were very powerful predators that would need to be fought off just to hunt a single animal, and an encounter with one of those predators would likely be very traumatic. And just because it wasn’t recorded, doesn’t mean those men didn’t go through what we call today as post-traumatic stress disorder. Although it was highly controversial, In 1980, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) added Post traumatic stress disorder to the third edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Despite the fact that many did not agree or recognize PTSD as a mental disorder, it went a long way in helping to understand the psychology behind many recorded cases of what we know today as PTSD.
PTSD is a mental condition that occurs when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic incident. This can be a wide variety of things such as war, terrorism, natural disasters, or even sexual assault. People who suffer from this disease often have many different types of symptoms. These people often feel immense fear, stress, or anxiety. Some may even relive the event constantly through vivid flashbacks or nightmares. In most cases, people suffering from PTSD tend to be very irritable and appear to be more angry than usual. They may even tend to keep to themselves and appear to be shutting the rest of the world out, and in severe cases you may notice very self-destructive or dangerous behavior. Victims of PTSD tend to close themselves off and not interact with others as much as they’ve been known to in the past, and interacting with them can be dangerous due to the fact that they are jumpy and more easily startled. Having a loved one suffering from PTSD can be especially difficult because they may not seem like the person you once knew. Unfortunately this is where the people around a person suffering from PTSD can actually make it worse. We as people tend to do what everything that can, thinking it is helpful, when in reality we’re only making it worse. Constantly hovering over a loved one and asking them what’s wrong may feel beneficial to you but all you’re doing for them is triggering their anxiety. The only way to care for someone dealing with PTSD is to stay by them and help with whatever you can at their pace, possibly even encouraging them to seek help if that’s what they want.
One of the hardest parts of PTSD is who it affects. Many people think the only person affected is the victim, however that is not the case. Though the victim is the one who is hurt the most, the people around them are also suffering. PTSD can tear families apart, families who send loved ones off to war, suffering in sorrow, wondering if they will ever see them again, only to be met with this shell of the person they once knew. Studies have shown that Veterans suffering from PTSD tend to have more family related issues than veterans who do not. This is due to the emotional detachment loved ones feel when their spouse lives through such a traumatic incident, the children of the family have also been known to have more behavioral issues than normal. 38% of marriages between Vietnam Veterans and their spouses failed within six months of the soldiers coming home. This disorder has been infamously known to tear families apart, it changes the overall behavior of the people suffering from it, thus changing who they are as a whole. People who suffer from PTSD often develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug use, drinking, or gambling. The reason behind this is because those suffering from PTSD don’t want to think about what happened anymore, so substances and habits are what help them forget, even if just for a moment. But after a while these vices turn to addictions, and before they know it they’ve already lost the ones they love and care about.
Because post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition, there is no known cure. The disorder affects the brain, and since each person’s brain and experience are different, a method of treating one person’s PTSD may not be the same as treating others. PTSD stems from our inability to cope with a traumatic incident, this is always specific to the individual, some people may be more equipped to handle a certain experience than others. Taking 9/11 for example, everyone was affected by that horrible event in different ways. Weather they were near the towers, in the towers, or they knew someone that was there, all these people are prone to dealing with PTSD, but not all of them can be treated the same. Therapy is often recommended to someone dealing with PTSD, this gives them a chance to let out the feelings they’re trapping inside, it also gives others an opportunity to understand where all of it started. There are three main goals when it comes to PTSD therapy. Improving symptoms, teaching skills to cope with it, and restoring self-esteem. No matter the type of therapy, these are the goals that each therapist will help to accomplish. A therapy that has been known to help is cognitive behavioral therapy, this has to do with changing the thought patterns and how they’ve been affecting one’s life. Typically this is done through discussing what happened in order to get a grasp on where the fear is coming from. Another common type of therapy for PTSD is cognitive processing therapy, this is a 12 week course with weekly sessions, it deals with talking about the event and analyzing it with a therapist to process why it is making the affected person feel the way they do so that they can work around it. There are also several medications that may help with the healing process of PTSD. The brain of people dealing with PTSD don’t work the same as of those who aren’t, people dealing with PTSD have a very easily triggered “fight or flight” response. This is because people who have dealt with real life or death experiences have had to us their “fight or flight” response to actually keep them alive, this is not an easy thing to recover from, it’s almost as if their mind is in a constant state of fight or flight, this is what makes them so jumpy. Medications, however can actually can assist in helping to stop thinking about what happened. These drugs affect the chemistry in your brain that deal with fear and anxiety, these drugs include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Venlafaxine (Effexor). However, Paroxetine is the only drug that’s been approved by the FDA to treat PTSD. But because not everyone reacts to medication in the same way, and not everyone’s PTSD is the exact same, doctors may prescribe “off label” medications. There is nothing wrong with taking off label medications as long as a doctor thinks that is what is best. The medications patients with PTSD take or even combination of medications has to do with what part of their everyday life the PTSD is affecting. The tricky part is the time it takes to get the dosage and combination right for each patient, that part just takes time.
It may not be an obvious fact, but adults aren’t the only people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Children are often, if not more often diagnosed with the disorder, in some cases PTSD can actually be more dangerous for children than adults. In 1980 when post-traumatic stress disorder was recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis, there wasn’t much knowledge on what PTSD looked like in children. Throughout the years, studies and tests have been done in order to recognize and identify PTSD in children. There are many things that can cause PTSD in a child, things such as car accidents, a large contributing factor to PTSD is the feeling of helplessness, and in the event of a car crash where a child is in the backseat that feeling may be more amplified than in many adults. Unfortunately in today’s society, traumatic events are happening around children everywhere, one of the most major events that occur are school shootings. It is a tragedy that children have to be so afraid to go to school because of recent events, one of the worst parts is how hard it can be to console a child due to the fact that all these shootings are much more common in recent times. It’s almost impossible to understand what a child might be feeling after an event like that, but we do know that most of these children are going to show signs of PTSD soon after the incident. Studies have shown that 15 to 43% of girls and 14 to 43% of boys have experienced at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime. Of those children 3 to 15% of girls and 1 to 6% of boys could very well be diagnosed with PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress disorder is much trickier to spot in children than it is to find in adults. Through studies, researchers and clinicians have determined that signs and symptoms vary depending on the age of the child. For example, it is much more difficult to find symptoms of PTSD in a child because many of the symptoms require a verbal description of one’s feelings. Whereas in adolescents and teens, symptoms are much more recognizable due to how similar they are to those of adults, with some minor differences.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real and very serious condition that lives in the world of EMS. Not only does EMS deal with patients who suffer from it, but it is also common for EMS personnel to suffer from it themselves. For cases of PTSD in EMS, it’s a little bit more sensitive to talk about due to the level of knowledge within EMS. Workers in the medical field are exposed to many traumatic events, but many go without saying anything and burying it down. EMT’s, Paramedics, Fire fighters, even doctors are often responsible for the life of the people they are caring for, and even if you give the best possible care, unfortunately people still die. That kind of thing can weigh heavily on anyone, but with EMS it can be even for detrimental. If, as caregiver in EMS, you are suffering from PTSD, it can easily affect the way you do your job and possibly hurt even more people. It is likely that the increasing rate of suicide in EMS is due to the lack of ability to properly deal with the PTSD that occurs during the job. It is the responsibility of an EMS provider to learn how to properly handle situations that will inevitably occur during the job.
To conclude the essay, post-traumatic stress disorder is possibly one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders, it is a widely believed thought that PTSD just goes away, when in reality it is very rare to completely eliminate any signs and symptoms of PTSD. One of the worst parts of PTSD is that there are almost always underlying feelings of fear or anxiety towards a specific incident, the only way to heal is to learn how to deal with those symptoms. One of the biggest issues facing any mental health disorder, but specifically PTSD is the way it is looked upon by the public. Many people see PTSD as a weakness or something to be ashamed of due to the lack of understanding about the disease. This is what makes it so hard for the victims of the mental condition to talk about it. According to recent studies “70 percent of American adults (that’s over 200 million people) have experienced an event that could be classified as traumatic”. Of that 70% of Americans, 20% of them will go on to develop PTSD. That means that at any given time, 8% of Americans are living with PTSD. This is why it’s so important to fully understand this disorder instead of thinking of it as a character flaw. So many people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, people of all nationalities, ethnicities, age groups, and sexes. From people you see on the street to the people closest to you, most people have had a traumatic experience at least once in their life. This is a mental health condition that truly does not only ruin the lives of those who suffer from it, but also the lives of the people around them. It is the responsibility of us as a people, to understand this condition so we can better help those who have been made to feel scared and ashamed. No one can know when something traumatic may happen, but what we can do, is try to better understand what everyone is going through.
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