Having bad memories after experiencing trauma is natural but will likely subside in a few weeks. If symptoms persist for months or years, something more serious may be happening. People who can’t shake memories or emotions may be experiencing the first signs of PTSD.
WHAT IS PTSD?
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health disorder that may develop after witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event.
It’s normal to have bad memories, be on edge, or have sleep troubles afterward. Initially, daily tasks like work or school or spending time with loved ones may be hard to do. The symptoms may pass within a few weeks or months, but any that persist could be signs of PTSD.
PTSD AND THE HISTORY OF DIAGNOSIS
The risk of exposure to trauma has been a constant of human experiments throughout evolution. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added PTSD to its third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) “nosologic classification scheme.” This new mental disorder was controversial when first introduced, but PTSD diagnosis has closed an important gap between psychiatric theory and practice. Historically, the significant change ushered in by the PTSD concept was the stipulation that the etiological agent (a traumatic event) was outside the individual rather than being an inherited weakness, like traumatic neurosis. The key to understanding the science and clinical expression is the concept of “trauma.”
DO YOU KNOW THE SYMPTOMS?
PTSD symptoms may show up as intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in emotional and physical reactions. They may include:
- Recurring bad dreams.
- Emotional distress when reminded of the event.
- Avoiding thinking or talking about the trauma.
- Avoiding people, places, or activities that are reminders.
- Bad thoughts about yourself, others, or the world.
- Relationship problems.
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
Many of these symptoms can be relieved with medicine like ketamine.
IS PTSD CONTAGIOUS?
PTSD is not a virus that spreads from one person to the next like the flu. If someone who sneezes near you has it, that doesn’t mean you’ll catch it. But people don’t have to be directly exposed to trauma to develop PTSD. By some estimates, 10 to 20 percent of people involved with PTSD patients may “catch” it themselves. A 2013 report from the University of Colorado said “that almost one in five of more than 200 health care providers helping military personnel” develop what has been called “secondary trauma” by researchers.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE PTSD
To diagnose PTSD, your doctor will:
- Conduct a physical exam to determine problems that could be causing symptoms.
- Do a psychological evaluation, including talking about your symptoms and signs and the event or events that preceded them.
- Use the criteria from the American Psychiatric Association published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Diagnosis requires exposure to a trauma that includes the possible or actual threat of death, violence, or severe injury.
WHAT IS A PTSD SCREEN?
A person who experienced trauma may be given a screen to determine the presence of PTSD. It’s a short list of questions created to determine if a patient needs to be assessed more. The results don’t show whether a person has PTSD, but only whether further assessment may be needed.
DOES KETAMINE WORK?
Ketamine was synthesized in 1962, tested on humans in 1964, and put through “field trials” for the next several years on the battlefields of Vietnam. It was approved in 1970 for surgical anesthesia, but doctors soon learned its psychotropic properties could stunt pain from depression, chronic pain, and other conditions. Decades of follow-up research hinted at the medicine’s ability to strengthen neurotransmitters in the brain, reducing symptoms and restoring quality of life for many patients.
PTSD affects millions, regardless of gender or age. It’s a mental disorder with serious consequences for you and others, but the worst of its symptoms can be treated with therapy and medicine. Ketamine is another option for treating PTSD and other disorders.
If you or a loved one have questions about the clinical use of ketamine to help treat the symptoms of PTSD, we can help.