PTSD: A Deeper Understanding

Since 2014, the U.S. has observed the month of June as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month to increase awareness of this illness and encourage better treatments for those who suffer. PTSD isn’t a newly recognized mental disorder, as it may have been first described in 50 B.C. when Hippocrates wrote a poem about the experiences of soldiers returning home from battle. The disorder has had a variety of names over time including “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” during World War I and II and was renamed PTSD after the Vietnam War.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through a traumatic event that caused or threatened them with serious harm or death. The news is filled with examples of trauma that might trigger this disorder such as transportation crashes, shootings, fires, natural disasters, abuse, terrorist attacks, military combat, violence and physical or sexual assault. With a laundry list of precipitating events occurring often, it’s not surprising that over half of the US population may experience a traumatic event during their lifetime, and that over 12 million Americans may experience PTSD each year. Notably, this disorder also affects twice as many women compared to men.

PTSD Symptoms & Treatment

PTSD presents with various symptoms that may include sleep problems, irritability, anger, recurrent dreams about the trauma, intense reactions to reminders of the trauma, disturbances in relationships, and isolation. To be considered PTSD, symptoms must be present for a month or more after the trauma occurs. Symptoms can be disabling for the sufferer, often causing them to withdraw and be unable to function in day-to-day life.
Early treatment is recommended and may include psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Some people may recover a few months after the event, but for others, it may take years. It’s estimated that only 20% to 30% of people with PTSD are effectively treated.
Two medicines (paroxetine and sertraline) are widely used to treat PTSD, but they don’t always relieve every symptom and complete remission is rare.

Current PTSD Research

There’s a need for improved therapeutics to treat PTSD. New treatments should work more effectively, have a faster onset of action, and cause less side effects. This is a very active area for clinical research and there are currently over 80 active clinical trials across the U.S evaluating medicines with different mechanisms of action.

For information about PTSD clinical trials enrolling near you that may offer the opportunity to access one of these new treatment options, contact us.