Nearly eight million U.S. adults experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental ailment triggered by surviving a harrowing episode. Though its causes and effects are known, research is continuing to try and perfect medicine and other tools to control its symptoms. One such option is a drug called ketamine.
WHAT IS PTSD?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contends various reactions are common after a trauma, including feeling on edge, disturbing memories, or trouble sleeping. Symptoms can initially interfere with routine life, “But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.” Symptoms that continue could lead to PTSD.
WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
PTSD can affect anyone, particularly active duty military, doctors, first responders, nurses – each with greater risk of PTSD than most professions. Children, veterans, and “typical” people from all socioeconomic groups also can suffer PTSD. Fortunately, psychotherapy or medicine like ketamine and other drugs can treat the symptoms for each group.
WHAT ARE PTSD FLASHBACKS?
The CPTSD Foundation says flashbacks “are where one relives a traumatic event while awake. Flashbacks are devastating to those who experience them, as they are suddenly and uncontrollably reliving something that happened in their past.”
People suffering flashbacks time travel, psychologically, to the trauma and relive it in horrific detail.
THE 5 BIGGEST MYTHS ABOUT PTSD
- Only soldiers experience PTSD.
Most people who think about PTSD imagine battle-hardened combat veterans. While PTSD frequently affects veterans — according to some estimates, anywhere between 11 and 30 percent of soldiers will have PTSD in their lives — anyone can experience the disorder. In fact, about eight million Americans deal with PTSD every year, most of whom are not active-duty military or veterans.
- Experiencing trauma is sufficient to develop PTSD.
Sadly, traumatic experiences are very commonplace. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that about 50 percent of females and 60 percent of males suffer at least one trauma during their lives. Traumatic episodes can include physical assault, sexual assault, child abuse, accidents, combat, natural disaster, or being a witness to injury or death.
- People experiencing PTSD are weak.
PTSD, like all mental ailments, cannot be described as a character flaw. Some people who experience PTSD can be susceptible due to a genetic tendency to the condition — like a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease. Others may come down with PTSD because the trauma they suffered was especially gruesome, or because the traumatic episode persisted for a long time.
- People suffering PTSD are dangerous.
Hollywood replays the classic movie trope film after film — a character experiencing PTSD forgets that the war is over and viciously lashes out at those around him. The truth, however, is that neither aggression nor psychosis is a calling card of PTSD.
- PTSD cannot be treated.
Mental disorders like PTSD are not curable, but most can be treated. Researchers and clinicians have discovered multiple treatment options: Psychotherapy, group therapy, self-help, hospitalization, antidepressants, and treatments such as ketamine infusion therapy.
HOW TO COPE WITH PTSD FLASHBACKS
- Tell yourself out loud that a flashback is happening.
- Remind yourself the worst has ended. The sensations and feelings you are suffering happened in the past and you are in control.
- Get grounded, literally, by stomping your feet on the floor as a reminder that you have physical means of escape.
- Breathe. As we get scared, we stop breathing normally. As we breathe deeply plenty, most of the anxiety feeling can loosen.
- Change your focus to the present. Start using your five senses in the present: Look, smell, taste, touch, hear.
- Be welcoming of your need for limitations. Swaddle yourself in a shawl, hold a stuffed animal or pillow, lay in bed, lie in a closet, do anything where you feel safe from the outside.
- Get support. It is important to make family or friends aware of your flashbacks and situation. They can either help with the healing by leaving you alone or being there.
- Allow yourself time to recover. You cannot start doing adult activities immediately.
- Pay Tribute to your experience. Honor yourself for surviving such a horrific event.
- Understand your body’s requirement to experience a host of feelings.
- Be patient because it takes time to accept the past.
WHAT TREATMENT IS KNOWN TO WORK?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, most people who experience PTSD benefit from different kinds of trauma-focused psychotherapies like cognitive processing therapy, group therapy, and self-help. Research with military veterans and other groups have shown promising results in managing trauma symptoms through the application of ketamine, when dispensed through an IV at low doses. If you or a loved one has dealt with trauma and are feeling some of the symptoms of PTSD we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the clinical use of ketamine to help treat PTSD.