Getting to Know PTSD and How It Affects Our Minds
Fri, December 9, 2022

Getting to Know PTSD and How It Affects Our Minds


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a mental health condition that is triggered when a person has experienced or witnessed a terrifying circumstance, explained Mayo Clinic, an American non-profit academic medical center. Signs of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Most individuals who experience traumatic events may struggle to adjust and cope. But it usually gets better with time and good self-care. If the symptoms escalate, last for months or years, or interfere with one’s functioning, it’s possible that the person may have PTSD. Effective treatment play a significant role in reducing PTSD symptoms and improve function.

Survey On Trauma and PTSD (2017)

Ronald C. Kessler and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC said the WHO World Mental Health Surveys in 24 countries evaluated 29 lifetime traumas and PTSD twice for each respondent. Each one was examined for the “worst” lifetime trauma and another for a randomly-selected trauma, adjusted for individual differences in trauma exposures.

The authors found that lifetime exposure to one or more traumas was observed by a weighted 70.4% of Part II WMH respondents. The most common trauma types were the unexpected death of a loved one (31.4%) and direct exposure such as witnessing or discovering death or serious injury (23.7%). Other common trauma types at the respondent level included muggings (14.5%), life-threatening automobile accidents (14%), and life-threatening illnesses (11.8%).

Meanwhile, “private” traumas were reported by 4.9% of participants. In terms of broader categories, the most common traumas at the respondent level either occurred to a loved one or were witnessed (35.7%), those involving accidents (34.3%), and unexpected death of a loved one (31.4%). Other traumas at the respondent level were physical violence (22.9%), intimate partner sexual violence (14%), war-related traumas (13.1%0, and “other” traumas (8.4%).

Traumas associated with interpersonal violence have the earliest median age-of-occurrence of 17 years, along with intimate partner violence (age 18), war-related traumas (age 20), and traumas that occurred to other people (age 20). Meanwhile, accidents, unexpected death of loved ones, and other traumas have later median ages-of-occurrences—between ages 24-31.

The conditional risk of DSM-IV/CIDI PTSD after trauma exposure is 4%, though it differs by trauma type. The highest conditional risk is associated with being raped (19%), physical abuse by a romantic partner (11.7%), being kidnapped (11%), and being sexually assaulted other than rape (10.5%). In broader categories, the traumas associated with the highest PTSD risk were those that involved intimate partner sexual violence (11.4%) and other traumas (9.2%), though aggregate conditional risk was lower in other broad trauma categories (2% to 5.4%).

The WMH data document found that trauma exposure is prevalent across the world. However, trauma exposure is unequally distributed in the population, with PTSD differing from various trauma types caused by interpersonal violence—especially relationship-sexual violence. The authors said this has the highest PTSD risk. As the WMH Surveys were designed as needs assessment surveys to allow governments to get to know about mental disorders. The results implied that policy planners should recognize PTSD as a “commonly-occurring condition.”  



What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms may manifest within a month of a traumatic event. There are cases when symptoms may not appear until years later. PTSD symptoms cause problems at work, in social situations, and in relationships. Symptoms can also impair your ability to accomplish daily tasks. Symptoms are generally categorized into four groups: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Signs of intrusive memories may include upsetting dreams or nightmares about the event or severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of it. Symptoms of avoidance may include trying to avoid talking or thinking about the event.

Negative changes in thinking and mood may make you feel hopeless about the future and emotionally numb. Meanwhile, changes in physical and emotional reactions may involve being easily startled or frightened and having trouble concentrating.



How Is PTSD Treated?

Treatment may involve psychotherapy such as cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Medications like antidepressants can also improve PTSD symptoms. Overall, treatment can enhance your wellbeing by teaching you skills to address symptoms, helping you think better about yourself and your surroundings, and learning coping mechanisms in case symptoms arise. Moreover, treatment can also involve addressed other issues associated with traumatic experiences like anxiety, depression, or misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Is it Possible to Get PTSD From the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Many people correlate PTSD with war, but after the 2003 SARS outbreak, healthcare workers and people who were self-quarantined showed symptoms of PTSD. Hence, the COVID-19 outbreak could have a similar effect on people, experts have said, according to  Cory Stieg of CNBC Make It, a website that helps readers save, earn, and spend their money smarter.

It is possible to have a strong emotional reaction to the trauma of the pandemic even if you are not diagnosed with PTSD. This trauma can last long after a distressing event. Frontline healthcare workers and people who have lost loved ones or jobs may be more susceptible to experiencing long-term difficulties. Likewise, those with anxiety or depression or who have a history of trauma may be at risk of emotional distress.

To help you cope with the pandemic, it is recommended to unplug from the news, making it “incredibly intentional, said Michele Bedard-Gilligan, an associate professor at the University of Washington who specializes in trauma. What is the news doing to your mental health? Is it helping you? Bedard-Gilligan added, “Anything you can do to cool off your brain right now is really helpful.”

Since PTSD is diagnosed a month after a traumatic event, you can consult a professional via telehealth, suggested Janelle Ringer of the Lomo Linda University Health, a non-profit religious corporation in Loma Linda, California. Be intentional in finding a professional and ensure that you are comfortable in opening up to them. Don’t forget to practice self-care. Any activity in your schedule should help improve your mental health. This can include listening to music, meditating, or taking a nap. It is better to engage in healthy activities rather than self-medication or any unhealthy coping mechanisms.

PTSD can occur from war and natural disasters to pandemics. Symptoms usually appear a month after a traumatic incident, ranging from intrusive memories and changes in emotional and physical reactions. Everyone processes trauma differently and it is best to be empathic with those who are recovering from a distressing event.