Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event like a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war and combat, rape, or other violent personal assault, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. A person with PTSD develops unusually strong feelings of anger, shock, fear, guilt, or anxiety after the traumatic event, preventing them from conducting everyday tasks and living a purposeful life. The general misconception is that PTSD only happens to combat veterans; in reality, PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of all US adults, which translates to around 8 million Americans or 1 in 30 adults who suffer from PTSD at any given time. It is estimated that 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.¹
Signs & SYMPTOMS
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)², while most traumatized individuals experience short-term symptoms, a select portion of them develop ongoing (chronic) PTSD. In most cases, symptoms begin early within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they can begin years afterward. To be officially diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following symptoms for at least one month (NIMH). Symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD.
At least one re-experiencing symptom.
- Re-experiencing symptoms include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. These symptoms can start from one’s own thoughts and feelings and may negatively impact a person’s everyday routine. Reminders of the event in the form of words, objects, or situations can trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
At least one avoidance symptom.
- Avoidance symptoms are commonly triggered by things that remind the individual of the traumatic event, causing them to change their personal routines. Avoidance symptoms include staying away from places, events, or objects as well as avoiding thoughts and feelings relating to the traumatic event.
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms.
- Arousal symptoms include getting easily startled, feeling tense or on the edge, having difficulty sleeping, and having angry outbursts. These symptoms cause the individual to constantly feel stressed and angry, making it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
At least two cognition and mood symptoms.
- It is natural for cognition and mood symptoms to begin or worsen a few weeks after the traumatic event, but not as a result of medical illness, injuries, or substance use. This is primarily because PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders. As stated by The Recovery Village’s 2020 report, people with PTSD are 3 to 5 times more likely to have a depressive disorder. Further, in general, individuals with PTSD who struggle to express their feelings have a higher risk of suicide.
The extensive symptoms of PTSD can severely affect the individual’s daily life, lowering their job and academic performances, hurting relationships, as well as leading to suicides or suicidal attempts. However, not only does PTSD negatively impact the individual, but it also affects their family members. According to Military.com, family members of people with PTSD can suffer from secondary stress and experience some of the same debilitating effects as PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse. This further demonstrates the enervating and considerable influence of PTSD on the individual as well as on their loved ones.
WHO DEVELOPS PTSD?
Trauma and PTSD are interconnected due to the disruptions and changes in brain chemistry caused by the trauma . PTSD is commonly associated with military combat along with traumas like car accidents, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Based on data from recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan, 20% of combat veterans from these wars have developed PTSD. The US Department of Veteran Affairs reports that 1 in 10 of these veterans have problems with drugs or alcohol, and that 1 in 3 of those seeking treatment are also diagnosed with PTSD. Moreover, while only 17% of combat troops are women, 71% of female military service members develop PTSD due to sexual assault experienced within the ranks, further illustrating the prevalence of PTSD among not just combat veterans, but military personnel in general.
Other traumatic events can also trigger PTSD, highlighted in the following statistics from Sidran Institute, the institution for traumatic stress education and advocacy:
- 49% of rape victims will develop PTSD;
- Nearly 32% of victims of severe physical assault develop PTSD;
- 16.8% of people who are involved in serious accidents, such as car or train accidents, develop PTSD;
- 15.4% of shooting and stabbing victims develop PTSD;
- 14.3% of people who suddenly and unexpectedly experience the death of a close loved one develop PTSD;
- Parents of children with life-threatening illnesses develop PTSD 10.4% of the time;
- Witnessing the murder or serious injury of another person causes PTSD in 7.3% of people;
- 3.8% of people who experience natural disasters develop PTSD.
Given the commonness of developing PTSD from traumatic events, it is not surprising that PTSD is a frequent claim in personal injury lawsuits.
EXISTING TREATMENT SOLUTIONS
Based on the aforementioned points, PTSD is far more prevalent than commonly perceived. The diagnosis of PTSD is missed approximately 90% of the time by clinicians, as the rate of diagnosis increased from 6% to 40% after conducting the study (Van Zyl et al., 2008). Key reasons for this common error are that, since individuals with PTSD feel a strong sense of isolation and avoidance, it makes it hard for them to realize their symptoms, face their problems, and seek the medical treatment they need. Some individuals believe they can manage their own symptoms and recover without outside help, while others may feel too embarrassed to share the traumatic experience with others. On the other hand, for those who do want to seek help, they oftentimes don’t know who to reach out to for assistance. These factors reveal the many challenges of existing treatment solutions.
Additionally, main PTSD treatments today are psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two (NIMH). Psychotherapy is “talk” therapy for which the individual talks to a mental health professional in an individual or group setting to treat mental illness. Some psychotherapy targets PTSD symptoms, while others focus on improving social, family, or job-related problems. A type of psychotherapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulations, and developing personal coping strategies. As for medication, antidepressants are most commonly used for controlling PTSD symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and feeling numb inside.
Despite having these established treatment modalities, their effectiveness isn’t guaranteed as symptoms and responses to treatment vary by individual. Based on past research studies, about 1 in 3 of those seeking treatment drop out before completion, with higher rates in Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense settings (Hoge et al., 2014, Kellyer & Tuerk, 2016) – the number continues to prevail in recent years. As a result, mental health professionals have difficulties treating PTSD patients using existing treatment solutions.
The PTSD Institute recognizes the shortcoming and ineffectiveness of existing PTSD treatment modalities and strives to provide a better alternative The PTSD Institute offers a wide selection of effective treatments for PTSD, including CBT-X™, Z-Based Neurofeedback, as well as the proven evaluative tool, QEEG.