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In 2010, the United States Congress declared June 27th as PTSD Awareness Day. In 2014, the Senate designated the entire month of June as National PTSD Awareness Month. The purpose of this observation is to raise public awareness of PTSD and promote effective treatments to help those who suffer.
So what is PTSD? And how can all of us help?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a mental disorder that can develop when someone is exposed to a traumatic event. Some of the most common experiences that cause PTSD include:
- Sexual Assault
- Traffic collisions
- Life-threaten events
Sometimes people can experience post-traumtic stress disorder even if they are not directly affected by the event directly. According to the American Psychiatric Association:
- 5% of adults in the United States have PTSD in a given year
- 9% of people develop it at some point in their life
Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can include:
- Dreams, thoughts, or feelings related to traumatic events
- Mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues
- Attempts to avoid trauma-related cues
- Shifts in how a person thinks and feels
- Increase in the fight-or-flight response
Statistically, most people who experience a traumatic event will not develop PTSD. However, some people are more susceptible to certain forms of trauma.
Women and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD.
- 10% of women experience PTSD in their lifetime
- 4% of men experience PTSD in their lifetime
This is largely attributed to sexual assault because women are more likely to experience sexual assault, and sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than many other events. Women are also more likely to experience things like:
- Neglect or abuse in childhood
- Domestic violence
- Sudden loss of a loved one
Sadly, women may be more likely to blame themselves for their traumatic experiences than men.
When it comes to how that trauma manifests, some symptoms are more common in women. For example, women are more likely to:
- Be jumpy
- Have trouble feeling emotions
- Avoid things that remind them of trauma
- Feel depressed and anxious
Men are more likely to have issues with anger and controlling it when dealing with PTSD, but both men and women struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder can develop physical health problems.
Veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Of course, one portion of the population at an elevated risk of PTSD is military Veterans. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 20% of Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Combat is one of the most traumatic situations a person can be in. Witnessing death and violence, while also being exposed to life-threatening situations can easily lead to PTSD.
However, something that most people may not realize is the amount of military sexual trauma (MST) that Veterans also experience. MST is a form of sexual harassment or assault that occurs while in the military, and it happens to both men and women during training, peacetime, and in war.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs:
- 23% of women reported sexual assault while in the military
- 55% of women in the military experience sexual harassment
- 38% of men in the military experience sexual harassment
Because there are more male Veterans than female Veterans, over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are actually men.
Sadly, one of the most troubling statistics about mental health when it comes to the men and women who serve our country is that according to a SAMHSA study, only around 50% of Veterans who need mental health treatment will receive it.
Post-Traumatic Stress and Substance Use Disorders
Another heartbreaking side-effect of PTSD can be drug and alcohol abuse, which often leads to substance use disorder (SUD).
In some cases, people who experience a traumatic event that causes a physical injury will be treated with powerful painkillers. This is one way that prescription opioids have contributed to the current opioid crisis in the country. Prescription opioids often increase feelings of pleasure and calm inside the brain, which can lead to those struggling with PTSD abusing these medications in order to numb themselves to both their physical agony and their emotional trauma. In fact, prescription opioid addiction is most commonly found to correlate with PTSD.
When it comes to Veterans, developing a substance use disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon. According to studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
- 23% of Veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan showed signs of SUD.
- In 2008, active duty and Veteran military personnel abused prescription drugs more than twice the rate as the civilian population.
- In 2009, the VA estimated around 13,000 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffered from alcohol dependence syndrome and required mental health treatment.
Meanwhile, those who experience sexual assault are also extremely likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with their trauma. According to a report by the American Journal on Addictions, 75% of women who enter addiction treatment programs report having experienced sexual abuse. Many studies over the years also report a prevalence of traumatic abuse in childhood.
Ultimately, we find that PTSD can feed into substance use disorder. Many people who struggle to control their emotions and suffer from the residual effects of their experiences try to self-medicate with both legal substances and illicit narcotics.
National PTSD Awareness Month: Call for Better Treatment
For National PTSD Awareness Month we can all do our part to help raise awareness of the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Center for PTSD is urging people to:
Learn- PTSD treatment works
Connect- Reach out to someone
Share- Spread the word
Online you can get educational materials, support information and resources to help spread awareness. The National PTSD Awareness campaign encourages everyone to work together to promote effective treatment for those who are suffering.
For those struggling with PTSD and substance use disorder, Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing innovative and life-changing treatment opportunities that help people struggling with trauma and addiction to overcome adversity and build a better quality of life. Our comprehensive programs use a holistic approach to help heal the whole person, and our facilities are specially designed to create lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Over the last 15 years, the suicide rate has climbed by an estimated 32%. While the overdose deaths in relation to the opioid crisis have become a constant issue around the country, some researchers suggest that the real suicide rates are even higher, but some of them are being misclassified as overdoses.
So, are more people dying due to drug abuse, or are more people taking their own lives using powerful street drugs and prescription narcotics?
Studying Suicide and Drugs
The idea that many of the deaths recorded as opioid overdoses may have been suicides, according to the researchers, is due to a significant gap between suicide rates and intoxication mortality rates.
A study from the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, was published in the journal PLOS One. This study states that both suicide and drug intoxication death rates in the United States have risen over a period of 15 years. Researchers compiled data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show:
- 2000- The suicide rate was 10.40 per 100,000 people
- 2015- Suicide rate rose to 13.75 deaths per 100,000 people
- 2000- Drug intoxication mortality rate for those over the age of 15 was 7.81 deaths per 100,000
- 2015- Drug intoxication death rate for those over the age of 15 rose to 20.07 per 100,000 in 2015
This means that the drug intoxication death rate rose by 257% in those 15 years, while suicide rates only rose by 32%. While 32% is still a devastating number when it comes to such a tragic circumstance, there is still a huge difference between 32% and 257%. These researchers believe this major difference in the reports of mortality rates suggests a lack of suicide reporting.
Difficulties in Death Investigation
One of the big problems, according to the study’s author Mark Kaplan, is resources. Kaplan is a professor of social welfare at UCLA, and he stated to local news sources,
“Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to serious under-resourcing of state and local death investigation systems throughout most of the U.S.
“Many of these deaths were probably suicides, yet reported as accidental self-poisoning rather than intentional self-harm, particularly among the middle-aged.”
The study by Kaplan and his colleagues further explains that when it comes to suicide by overdose, things like an individual’s psychiatric history or the presence of a suicide note are crucial to helping professionals identify a death as a suicide.
“A suicide note, prior suicide attempt or affective disorder was documented in less than one-third of suicides and one-quarter of undetermined deaths,”
“Our incorporation of undetermined deaths, as well as registered suicides, not only provided a window on the nature of suicide misclassification within the undetermined death category but within the accident category—as a much larger reservoir for obscuring drug intoxication suicides.”
So by acknowledging that there is not always an obvious indication that a death is a suicide, even in cases that are classified in suicide, the researchers believe that many deaths that involved drugs have most likely been categorized as overdoses instead of making a deeper inquiry into the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death.
Opioids Causing Ambiguity
With the opioid crisis in America, it has become even more difficult to measure the suicide rates. And that isn’t just this research teams opinion either.
In 2015, the CDC hosted a meeting to address the challenges presented for medical examiners and coroners across the country. The primary focus was concerning cases of fatal intoxication due to opioids and other drugs. The summary of this meeting concluded that drug intoxication deaths may be among the most difficult to determine regarding the manner of death. The summary notes that reasons for such difficulty in having a more accurate manner of death include:
- Potentially equivocal evidence
- Intent to die
- Overlapping demographic groups affected
- Overlapping premorbid risk factors (e.g., substance abuse, mental health problems).
Opioid addiction, much like any other form of substance use disorder, is often closely connected to other issues, including anxiety, trauma and mental health disorders. Some individuals living with mental health conditions who abuse opioids may be self-medicating and accidentally overdose. But others may be suffering so severely, with conditions like depressive disorders or bipolar disorder, that they ultimately take their own lives intentionally with the powerful drugs. With opioid abuse being so widespread and devastating, the line between the two has begun to blur.
Both studies mentioned clearly indicate in order to truly comprehend an accurate number of suicides by overdose, more research is needed. Both also admit that the number may never be exact.
Even though we will probably never have a definitive answer, the question is still important to ask. By knowing whether opioid deaths are caused by accidents or intentional we can develop better strategies to provide education and prevention.
This is also why mental health should always be a priority when it comes to addiction treatment.
Substance use disorder and suicide are both connected to mental health and personal wellness. Too often they both lead to avoidable tragedies. Therefore, mental health and wellness should be a priority for addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Just this past Sunday the nation saw one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history in Las Vegas. This immense and indescribable tragedy shocked the world as news reports and live footage filled the airwaves after a gunman opened fire with high-powered rifles at an outdoor music festival. At this point there are at least 58 dead and over 520 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in recent history.
The heartbreak and weight of this tragedy truly cannot be put into words. The unimaginable loss is without parallel. Beyond those who lost their lives in such a senseless act of violence, the impacts this event has had on countless friends, families and loved ones are unfathomable.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, mental health must be a priority. How we address and protect the psychological well-being of every American must be a very serious part of the conversation. We have to take a close look at how we are facing mental health, and support those who have been traumatized in the wake of such horrific events.
PTSD of Mass Shootings
The risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is extremely elevated in situations like this. Research on mass shootings is not extensive but is sufficient enough to allow for some preliminary conclusions. One study examined 15 mass shooting events to review consequences of the incidents upon survivors. From these studies conclusion, researchers stated:
- Prevalence of post-disaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) in these studies ranged from 10% to 36%
- Much higher percentages reported sub-threshold PTSD
- Very few participants reported no symptoms
One 1994 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that in the acute post-disaster period:
- 20% of the men met criteria for PTSD after a mass shooting
- 36% of the women met criteria for PTSD
The same study looked at those with post-disaster PTSD who also met criteria for another post-disaster psychiatric diagnosis, especially major depression. They found:
- One-half of the women met the criteria
- One-fourth of the men met the criteria
Experts say most people will recover fully from post-disaster PTSD within 6 to 16 months, but most still emphasize the importance of support.
Not only can those present at the tragedy be affected directly, but also those not present but connected to the location or individuals present can be affected vicariously. You don’t have to experience something so horrifying first-hand to suffer a severe impact. An attack like this can have deep emotional effects on those who witness the event, or even for those all over the world following the story.
Part of dealing with the residual effects of tragic events and disasters is to understand how conditions like PTSD can impact people. PTSD can result in emotional, physical and even cognitive issues that some people may not know how to recognize or cope with.
Emotional Effects of PTSD Include
- Grief or sadness
- Emotional numbing
- Loss of pleasure derived from familiar activities
- Difficulty feeling happy
- Difficulty experiencing loving feelings
Physical Effects of PTSD Include
- Startle response
- Cardiovascular strain
- Increased physical pain
- Reduced immune response
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased libido
Cognitive Effects of PTSD Include
- Decreased concentration
- Impaired decision making
- Impaired Memory
- Decreased self-esteem
- Reduced self-efficacy
- Intrusive thoughts/memories
All of these things can cause other more personal issues. Some will experience difficulty with intimacy or social relationships. Isolation and alienation can develop at work, at school or even at home.
According to PTSD United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support and resources for those suffering from PTSD:
- 70% of adults (approximately 223.4 million people) in the US have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
- Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD.
- Approximately 44.7 million people today either have struggled or are struggling with PTSD.
With PTSD, a lot of people actually turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Some will rely on substances as a form of relief when PTSD brings feelings of isolation or depression. However, as people try to numb or distract themselves from these feelings, they tend to create more problems through substance use.
Often times, the substances only fuel feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety.
Make Mental Health a Priority
This week, October 1 through October 7, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. There is no time like the present to discuss the current state of mental health across the country. Now is always the time to advocate for better support, services, and acceptance when discussing mental illness and mental health in America.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
- 9% of all U.S. adults (43.4 million)qualified as having mental health issues in 2015
- Approximately 20-21% of incarcerated Americans have a “recent history” of mental health issues
- 70% of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue
- 46% of people living in homeless shelters live with severe mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs)
In the aftermath of such profound tragedy like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, or even natural disasters like recently with Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria, there should be a very direct conversation about mental health. We should also work diligently to ensure that while the world grapples with opioid addiction and drug abuse, that more people don’t turn to self-medicating to fight feelings of loss, terror or alienation.
For all survivors of recent tragedies, or those affected indirectly, there are ways to take care of yourself and monitor your own mental state. Make your own mental health a priority. Protect yourself from destructive behaviors, and reach out for help in the wake of such emotionally compromising events as what happened in Las Vegas.
The national crisis hotline also offers confidential and free services 24/7/365 Call (775) 784-8090 or text ANSWER to 839-863
Our hearts and prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.
If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, don’t let substance abuse make it all even worse. Drugs or alcohol are not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398