Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has been around since the dawn of time. But we’ve only had a name for it for the past 35 years. PTSD is a psychological disorder that may arise after a person experiences or sees an extreme trauma, such as:
- A natural disaster
- Military combat
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- A serious accident
First Discoveries of PTSD
Incidents of PTSD have been recorded as far back as our history goes. Many believe that characters in Shakespeare plays, Charles Dickens’ stories and Biblical passages exhibit symptoms of PTSD. However, the disorder wasn’t formally recognized until 1980, when the American Psychiatric Association updated its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to include PTSD.
Up until then, symptoms associated with PTSD were called personality weaknesses. There was no recognition that an outside event was causing this trauma. Even after 1980, some researchers refused to believe that PTSD was real.
Early on, PTSD was associated only with extreme traumas, such as witnessing a bombing, a war or a volcanic eruption. A handful of psychologists looked at the history of PTSD in veterans and believed only soldiers developed the disorder. Gradually, researchers realized PTSD could also be prompted by emotional events, such as extreme emotional abuse.
Who Is Impacted by PTSD?
Anyone can be affected by PTSD. Although it’s most closely tied to military members, it can also develop in anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic event, regardless of age, race or gender. There are three groups that experience the disorder most frequently:
History of Childhood PTSD
Initially, researchers believed that children couldn’t develop PTSD, but by the early 1990s, that perception had changed. Studies have shown that girls are more likely to develop PTSD than boys. About 0.4 percent of kids 11-15 have been diagnosed with the disorder. In children, PTSD is most frequently linked to childhood sexual abuse.
History of Combat PTSD
As far back as the 1600s, soldiers who engaged in combat were known to become sad and restless after war. Early researchers called their condition nostalgia or home sickness. During the Civil War, what we now know as PTSD was referred to as “soldier’s heart.” Doctors said symptoms included the fast pounding of the heart, difficulty breathing and extreme anxiety.
History of PTSD in Veterans
Soldiers who came home after World War I and had difficulty re-entering society were often said to suffer from “shell shock.” Veterans were also diagnosed with “combat exhaustion” following World War II and the Korean War. It wasn’t until after the Vietnam War, where soldiers saw unspeakable atrocities, that PTSD became pronounced. This time, veterans were told they were experiencing “situational disorders” based on their war experiences.
History of PTSD Treatment: The Early Years
The preferred method of treating PTSD has evolved as researchers learn more about the condition. After its discovery, PTSD was classified as an anxiety disorder. Since then, researchers have changed their opinions, reclassifying it as a trauma and stressor-related disorder.
Individuals serving in the military who developed PTSD were often taken off active duty or discharged, with no attempt made to treat them. The stigma attached to PTSD — with many doctors still believing those who developed it were just weak —prompted many veterans to keep quiet about their condition. More recent research has shown that the brain can actually change from the effects of PTSD. This discovery has helped medical professionals develop more effective treatment options for the disorder.
Current PTSD Treatment Options
Treatment of PTSD has improved over the years to become more efficient and more sophisticated. The personal circumstances of the person being treated for PTSD affect the methods of the treatment. For instance, a combat veteran would be treated differently than a small child.
With that being said, the following approaches often see the best results:
- Cognitive therapy
- Group therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
- Medications, such as Zoloft and Paxil
- Fear extinction
- Exposure therapy
- Stress inoculation therapy
Though there isn’t a full body of research behind it, virtual reality exposure therapy has shown promising results in early tests. Rapid intervention can also play a key role in helping individuals at risk of developing PTSD. The sooner someone is treated, the faster they can begin to recover.
Get Help for PTSD
If you have questions or concerns about PTSD, and how it may be affecting your addiction to drugs or alcohol, the experienced staff at 12 Keys Rehab can help. Contact us today.