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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?


What exactly is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or more commonly referred to as PTSD for short? It’s generally defined as an anxiety disorder which can occur after a person has been exposed to a traumatic event. While most people will recover over time after experiencing something traumatic in their life, some people will continue to struggle over time and eventually be diagnosed with PTSD. These events can include but are not limited to:

● Sexual or physical assaults

● Childhood trauma/abuse

● Domestic Violence

● Combat during wartime

● Serious health problems or diagnosis

● Exposure to a traumatic event

● Death of a loved one

● Natural disasters

● Serious accidents


It is important to remember that the above mentioned are only a few traumatic scenarios that could lead to the development of PTSD. There are endless scenarios and situations that can be perceived as traumatic, and this will also vary from person to person and how they process their associated trauma. It is believed that as many as 1 in 3 people who experience a severe level of trauma will develop PTSD. While it is not completely understood as to exactly why some may develop PTSD and others may not, it is generally accepted that there are certain factors that tend to be related, such as a history of depression or anxiety for example.


How does PTSD Present?


How do you know if you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD? There are many associated behaviors or adverse effects that can lead one to suspect PTSD as a diagnosis. Things such as alterations in arousal and reactivity. This would include noticeable changes such as being irritable and having outbursts; paranoia; being jumpy and easily startled or behaving recklessly. Other symptoms which may be present are trouble concentrating, flashbacks and nightmares, panic episodes, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, depression and anxiety etc.. While the symptoms of PTSD can be different for each individual, they all stem from the effects of trauma. Sadly, research has shown that as little as 2-11% of those experiencing trauma related

symptoms are actually diagnosed and able to receive the appropriate treatment. Raising

awareness and a deeper understanding of trauma related symptoms and diagnosis can help remove the stigma of asking for help when it’s needed.


Combat Related PTSD


Unfortunately, PTSD is quite prevalent amongst our veterans as well as those who are still active service members. It has been previously noted that 13.5% of deployed and non deployed veterans were found to be exhibiting PTSD, while other studies show the rate to be considerably higher. Over the course of the previous century, war related PTSD took on multiple different names and recognitions. For example, during the Civil War symptoms related to PTSD were referred to as “soldier’s heart’. By World War 1, it was referred to as “shell shock” and by World War II it was deemed “combat fatigue”.

We now know of course that all of these previous descriptions of symptoms are actually what is known and recognized today as post-traumatic stress disorder.


Treatment Options


Treatment for PTSD will vary for each individual, however there are recognized treatment plans and techniques used today. Of course, as with any other mood related disorder, psychotherapy is a popular treatment option. This can include a combination of techniques used by a psychotherapist to provide support such as exposure therapy or cognitive restructuring.

Another key option is medications. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are an

approved antidepressant medication that is utilized for treatment in PTSD patients. It is likely that SSRI’s will be used in combination with psychotherapy. It is important to follow the suggestions of your healthcare provider in order to find the proper treatment plan for each individual, as what works best for one, may not have the same desired effects for another.


If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of PTSD or is looking for support, please reach out to one of the following resources. If you are experiencing an emergency, dial 911.

  1. Wounded Warriors Canada 1-888-934-5921

  2. Alberta Health Services - Mental health Helpline 1-877-303-2642

  3. Distress Centre 24 Hour Crisis Support - 403-266-4357

 

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