What Happens To Your Mind When You Have PTSD

July 29th 2015

Thor Benson

PTSD, which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a terrible psychological ailment. PTSD is typically triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, according to Mayo Clinic. The disorder is often associated with veterans, though many have said that overall, victims of rape are more likely to experience it. Regardless of how it comes about, it can be a seriously debilitating condition that can ruin lives.

Around 8 percent of American adults will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, according to the PTSD Alliance. People who develop PTSD are at a higher risk of suicide, typically experience consistent anxiety, have difficulty sleeping, and are prone to heavy drinking and drug use.

PTSD among veterans has become an epidemic, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is having serious trouble keeping up and helping people. Many veterans, often those with signs of PTSD, end up waiting months for appointments with the VA. This has persisted after there was a scandal over extraordinary VA wait times. It has been estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and a recent study from the VA found female veterans commit suicide six times more often than non-veteran women. Female veteran suicides have been associated with both battle traumas and sexual traumas experienced during service. Veterans with PTSD symptoms often report feeling as if they are still in the battle field once they return home. They may think a car driving behind them is a terrorist trying to kill them or think an open window has a sniper in it. PTSD can be triggered by loud noises, which may be associated with bombs going off or gun fire. Both those who got PTSD from a war zone, along with those who did not, often find themselves reliving the traumatic event in their heads.

PTSD among veterans was only accepted as a widespread problem in recent history: it was often called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue" in the past and wasn't considered a psychological disorder until around the 1980s.

Unfortunately, veterans who do get an appointment with the VA are often prescribed highly addictive prescription drugs. Long wait times can also prevent veterans from getting consistent therapy. Some are trying to combat the use of addictive prescription drugs by experimenting with treating PTSD using marijuana, MDMA, or ayahuasca, typically in tandem with therapy. There is also more and more talk about using something called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to treat PTSD, which involves distracting the eyes while someone concentrates on traumatic images or ideas.

As was previously said, PTSD doesn't just affect veterans. About half of women who are raped end up with PTSD symptoms. PTSD can also come from domestic abuse, a serious accident, having been molested, or having a family member die unexpectedly. Doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out the best way to tackle the disorder without getting people addicted to drugs and making them feel like zombies.