PTSD for Civilians

The news reports of PTSD on the rise often cite instances of veterans who develop the disorder after being deployed overseas. But a new study shows that even a stressful life-changing event can precipitate a mental disorder. You don’t even need to leave the country. A cross-country move, job change, hospital stay or new baby can be enough for some to trigger symptoms of PTSD.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, cites research done at Johns Hopkins University. Researchers in the study checked in with survivors of a life-threatening lung injury for two years after they were discharged from the ICU. The investigators found that slightly more than one in three in the group suffered from the often-debilitating anxiety disorder.

Just like other PTSD sufferers, the patients had flashbacks of their experiences, such as thinking they were going to die. The problem was compounded by being sedated and experiencing organ failure. This led to “nightmarelike” delusions and “distorted memories,” explains study lead author Joseph Bienvenu. The patients mistook a catheter in the bladder, for example, as a sexual assault, and reported “memories” of events that never occurred, such as plots to murder them.

The researchers say the high prevalence of PTSD after an ICU stay underscores the importance of following up with patients after they leave the hospital. This is especially important because we know that undiagnosed PTSD can lead to self-medicating and even substance abuse. Most individuals who seek treatment for addiction are also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder like depression, trauma, bipolar or PTSD.

Even common life events can lead to mental distress, so if you see signs of PTSD, contact a health professional. If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and co-occurring disorder, call The Oaks at La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.

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