PTSD is a mental health disorder than many find themselves being vaguely familiar with, and it is more common than some are led to believe. However, that is not to say that everyone is aware of it. Most people aren’t even certain of what PTSD is when it comes to the specifics. 

June 27th 2020 is National PTSD Awareness Day. Due to this spotlight on PTSD, lets learn more about this mental illness and how it affects many Americans.  

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Usually, when people think of PTSD, they assume it means the development of poor mental health as a result of some sort of trauma. On the surface, they are correct, but there’s much more to it than being defined as an anxiety disorder. This has all to do with the weight of the conflict that has influenced the behavioral change. 

PTSD occurs as a result of a traumatic or life-threatening experience. Some of these experiences commonly include war, sexual assault/use, physical assault/use, accidents, and natural disasters. This is due in large part to the impact of stress on the autonomic nervous system, which pertains to internal organs. 

These include the following:

  • Blood vessels
  • Stomach
  • Intestines
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Bladder
  • Genitals
  • Lungs
  • Pupils
  • Heart
  • Sweat glands
  • Salivary glands
  • Digestive glands

Stress also affects the endocrine system (which regulates metabolism, mood, sex drive, sleep, and other hormones) and the immune system (biological defense system protecting against disease). The autonomic nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are all dependent on one another; because stress has a massive impact on each of these, the way we perceive and process trauma is distorted. 

Symptoms of PTSD

Some symptoms of PTSD may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble digesting food

Due to the fact that our body’s reaction to stress is largely dependent on our perception of it, it is imperative to understand why and under which circumstances we become stressed. When our bodies are responding to stressful situations, there are large amounts of inflammatory hormones that make their way into our bodies. This makes it possible for even the memory of a traumatic event to have a catastrophic impact on our emotions and regular functions.

The Dangers of PTSD on the Brain

There have been extensive amounts of research done to highlight the impact that PTSD has on the human brain. Some studies have shown that the region of the brain referred to as the amygdala processes both fear and other emotions. When PTSD strikes, the amygdala shrinks as a result. When the amygdala shrinks, it becomes more difficult to process fear and other emotions. 

PTSD by the Numbers

The first time PTSD was ever regarded was during the Civil War. Additionally, it was given attention in World War I, but until the 1980s, it was not officially acknowledged as a legitimate mental health disorder, at least by the American Psychiatric Association. Fast forward a few years later, and not only is it understood better, but it’s also taken much more seriously. There are massive amounts of research being done to help combat PTSD. 

The National Center for PTSD suggests that 5% of men and 10% of women in the US will develop PTSD in their lifetime. To put these numbers into perspective, it represents somewhere between the 6 and 7 million adults that are suffering from this mental illness today. It is imperative to remember, however, that adults aren’t the only ones that will develop PTSD. Children as just as much at risk as adults are.

If you think that’s a lot, you may want to brace yourself; that number is going to increase exponentially. This is largely due to all of the terrible things happening in the world at the current moment. PTSD tends to show up right after a traumatic experience. PTSD has no respect for time; in short, it can manifest itself years after trauma has been experienced. 

In addition to all of this, one of the most common groups people associate PTSD with is the military, and it makes sense. However, it’s only getting worse. 30% of men and women in active warzones develop PTSD sooner or later in their lives. 

These rates vary on many factors, some of which include the following:

  • The branch of the military in which they served
  • Participation in active combat
  • Whether they were enlisted or an officer
  • Experiencing sexual assault

How Common is PTSD?

PTSD is vastly present in the United States. 1 in every 13 people will develop PTSD in their lives. This is a scary thought to consider. Some or all of these individuals account for the nearly three-quarters of American adults to have experienced a traumatic event in their lives at least once. Of this number, half are women, and more than half are men (50% women, 60% men). This all accounts for 8 million people in total.

In addition to all of this, there are more stats that reflect the severity of PTSD in the US:

  • More than 13 million people in the US have PTSD at any given time
  • 3.6% of adults in the US suffer from PTSD every year
  • 10% of women will develop PTSD in their lifetime as opposed to 4% of men
  • Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD
  • Nearly half of all rape victims will develop PTSD
  • 32% of severe physical assault victims develop PTSD
  • Nearly 17% of people who experience a serious car accident develop PTSD
  • 15% of shooting or stabbing victims develop PTSD
  • Those who suffer from the sudden death of a loved one can develop PTSD
  • Parents whose children suffer from a life-threatening disease may suffer from PTSD
  • 7.3% of those who witness a murder experience PTSD
  • Close to 4% of those who suffer from a natural disaster develop PTSD

PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

Those who are at risk of developing PTSD or any other sort of mental illness usually cling closely to certain coping mechanisms. Some of these coping mechanisms include drug or alcohol misuse. When people start doing this, their problems become much more serious. Alcohol has the capability to worsen depression, anxiety, and any other sort of mental illness due in large part to the fact that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.  

Oftentimes, substance use disorder is connected to PTSD, and this isn’t at all unusual. PTSD and other mental health disorders are extremely difficult to go through. Sometimes, it’s easiest to look towards unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug or alcohol use. This all eventually leads to co-occurring disorders.

Dual Diagnosis

Those looking for PTSD treatment are 14 times more likely to also be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. This is an example of a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is when someone is suffering from a mental health disorder and substance use disorder at the same time. 

This does not mean that because someone is suffering from substance use disorder, they have to also suffer from PTSD, nor does it mean that anyone suffering from PTSD will definitely suffer from substance use disorder as a result. Dual diagnosis should be understood as the co-occurrence of two behavioral disorders. 

When individuals are suffering from a mental health disorder, it is natural to feel lonely or isolated. This is perhaps one of the worst parts about mental illness. Not many people understand it. There are many who try to fix individuals without first hearing them and seeking to understand them. Because of this, those individuals feel isolated and sad, frustrated, or aggravated, and they tend to cope using methods like alcohol or drug use

Self-medicating could be one reason that people who suffer from PTSD are also suffering from substance use disorder. When dealing with a mental illness that’s as severe as PTSD, it can be difficult to manage the pain. Sometimes, it’s scary to seek professional help and much easier to try solving the problem yourself. As a result, people become dependent on a substance to numb their pain, and then addiction becomes a problem. 

Those who suffer from PTSD and substance use disorder are more likely to use alcohol than any other substance. Not only that, but studies have shown that those who have served in the military who have a tendency to drink heavily are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Some of these individuals who are diagnosed with PTSD suffer from binge drinking, a form of substance use disorder. 

Sana Lake is Here to Help

Here at Sana Lake Recovery, our goal is to meet each individual where they are rather than trying to fit them in a mold. There’s not a method of treatment that works for every single person successfully. This is why we put a huge emphasis on individualized care. 

PTSD is not an easy road to walk down. There are many who aren’t aware of its destructive nature, nor do they care to understand. Here at Sana Lake, however, we are here to listen and meet your needs. If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD or any other mental illness and would like to find out more, contact us here