Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder What is it?

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died protecting our freedom in the United States. So when I saw an article about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increasing the rate of heart disease and the progression of the disease in our returning veterans I thought it was an appropriate topic for this week. Our veterans sacrifice so many aspects of their lives to serve us that I think it is especially important to talk about their health issues or concerns to support their well-being when they come home. I will start by explaining what PTSD is and if veterans are the only people that get it.

As defined on WebMD, PTSD is the development of certain symptoms following a mentally stressful event that involved actual death or the threat of death, serious injury, or a threat to oneself or others. PTSD is a disorder that has been given much attention because of the military soldiers that experience it but PTSD also affects people from all types of backgrounds including patients who have been diagnosed with a medical condition or close family members of the patients, people in abusive situations, survivors of natural disaster like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, any type of situation that can lead someone to feeling hopeless, overwhelmed or completely out of control.

PTSD is usually considered a mental health problem because symptoms can include traumatic incidents, high levels of stress, deficiency of social support, previous psychological problems, or genetic or biological factors. PTSD has been shown in higher incidence in cancer patients and family members of cancer patients as well.

PTSD is so debilitating because people experience its symptoms for at least one month and usually much longer and it negatively affects their relationships with family, friends, at work, etc. Sights, smells, colors or dreams that a person experiences, called triggers, can remind them of the traumatic event and may cause them to relive the event each time they experience them. This fearful response can interrupt a person’s daily activities and they might start avoiding situations and people that might trigger an episode. Anxiety can also develop around these triggers.

As we start to understand more about PTSD, you might be able to see how it might contribute to higher rates of heart disease. If not, then definitely join me next time to see how the two are linked.