Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – One of the Most Misunderstood Mental Disorders – CDP

Solider with hands on his faceJune 27th is National PTSD awareness day. While there is still a general lack of understanding of mental illnesses, PTSD is one of the most misunderstood mental disorders. Despite the availability of modern research findings, there are still many unfounded beliefs associated with PTSD.

Some of the commonly held myths are:

    • Only soldiers and war veterans can suffer from PTSD
    • PTSD is a sign of weakness
    • There are no treatments for PTSD
    • People who have PTSD are dangerous
    • Every person who experiences trauma develops PTSD

What is PTSD Then?

The American Psychiatric Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, it could be war, a terrorist act, serious incident, natural disaster, and sexual or violent personal assaults, like rape.”

The mental disorder is mainly characterized by extreme fear and anxiety that is often uncontrollable.

In the field of medical science, it is an established fact that anyone who has witnessed or experienced an event that negatively affected their physical and emotional well being or posed a threat to their lives can develop PTSD. Simply put, any incident that induces extreme learned fear can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although it is common for anyone to experience anxiety and emotional issues after going through a trauma, the intensity of the symptoms reduces with time. But people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are unable to recover from the trauma, and the severity of their symptoms does not reduce with time.

Research has shown that women, children, and disabled people are more likely to develop the disorder.

Factors That Can Increase the Risk for Developing PTSD

While it is impossible to accurately predict if a person is likely to develop PTSD, there are a few factors that researchers believe can increase the risk of developing it. They include:

    • Loss of a loved one
    • Serious injury or harm, either to yourself or to a loved one
    • Isolation or separation
    • Displacement from home or being away from the family as a result of some incident 

New Scientific Discoveries 

It was long believed that war-related PTSD depends on how well a soldier copes psychologically with the constant threat and exposure to violence. A research study published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2016 regarded the view as incomplete and representing only half the story.

As stated on the University of Cambridge website, researchers found that the context through which a person experiences a war may play an equally important role in determining why wars affect people differently; such as, their cultural, organizational, and professional background.

According to Mark de Rond, one of the two researchers who conducted the study, “this understanding of the connection between PTSD and the context of those who suffer from it could change the way mental health experts analyze, prevent and manage psychological injury from warfare.”

Some Common Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

A person suffering from this condition usually experiences and/or exhibits a combination of the following symptoms:

    • Extreme fear or phobia
    • Depression
    • Insomnia
    • Hypervigilance
    • Detachment
    • Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares
    • Severe anxiety
    • Irritability
    • Anger issues
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Self-destructive behaviors
    • Lack or loss of appetite
    • Substance abuse

The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person.

Diagnosis of PTSD

PTSD statistics
PTSD Depression chart Wikipedia
Only a trained healthcare professional can diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. This is due to the fact that many patients do not experience or exhibit most of the symptoms associated with the disease.

What makes it even more difficult is the fact that many people experience anxiety that is generalized and not associated with PTSD. This is why it is highly recommended to consult a trained and experienced professional for diagnosis and avoid taking any medications on your own.

How is PTSD Treated?

According to PTSD United, about 70% of adults in the U.S. reported having experienced traumatic events at least once in their lives. Out of this, 20% developed PTSD.  The website also stated that around 8% of Americans suffer from PTSD at any given time.

Like all other mental illnesses, many conventional treatments are available for it. However, they may not work for everyone. Patients who do not find relief from conventional medicines find it very difficult to deal with the disease, and they sometimes end up harming themselves; there are some cases where patients even committed suicide or committed harm to others.  

Due to the inefficacy of first-line medications (for some patients) and serious negative consequences, researchers have been continuously trying to find alternative treatments for PTSD.  

Can Cannabis be an Alternative Treatment for PTSD?

According to research published in Molecular Psychiatry, certain compounds that are present in cannabis can provide some relief to patients of PTSD.  

There are many other studies that have led scientists to consider that cannabis may offer help in managing the disease by providing symptomatic relief. However, the research is still in its preliminary stages and there is a long way to go before the drug can be approved as a treatment for PTSD.

How Can Cannabis Help with PTSD?

According to the research, cannabis can provide symptomatic relief by removing associations to painful memories. This can help patients who experience flashbacks whenever they see or hear something that is somehow associated with the event that initiated the disease.

A study was conducted to understand the neurobiological mechanisms that initiate the development of PTSD. It was found that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have a deficiency of anandamide. Anandamide is an endogenous (not attributable to any external or environmental factor) cannabinoid compound that triggers certain brain receptors that are called CB-1. These receptors are responsible for mediating many psychological functions.

When they are normally functioning, they help people overcome traumatic incidents by deactivating the bad memories.  The research also found out that cannabinoids may help remove the deficiency of endocannabinoids that contribute to PTSD. However, the drug may cause many side effects. Hence, it should not be used unless prescribed by a registered healthcare practitioner.