Although there's increased talk around the diagnosis and treatment of common mood and mental disorders like anxiety and depression, there's still a lot of work to be done to raise awareness. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for instance is still almost exclusively associated with servicemen and women returning from active combat despite the fact that it affects 4.4 in 100 people in the UK as of 2016 — according to the mental health charity MIND. After Mixed Anxiety and Depression, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which affect 7.8 and 5.9 in 100 people respectively, PTSD is the third most common mental health disorder affecting people in the UK.
Considering how common of a mental health problem it is, POPSUGAR asked Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre Dr. Rafael Euba to clarify some prevalent queries regarding PTSD.
What causes it?
It's commonly known that PTSD is caused by traumatic events such as sexual assault, violent personal attacks, or witnessing extreme violence, but according to Dr. Euba, PTSD can also be caused by "life-threatening medical diagnoses, such as cancer and other diseases where life expectancy is reduced, and traumatic treatment". And it doesn't stop there because PTSD can be triggered by any event that causes you to feel fear, such as "emotional experiences of loss, abuse, or bullying at home or in the workplace."
What are the symptoms?
Much like depression and anxiety, symptoms of PTSD can be both physical and psychological, with "flashbacks, sweats, palpitations, heart racing, and sleeplessness" being the most overt symptoms, but Dr. Euba says you should also be mindful of behaviours such as "being on guard at all times, restlessness and irritability, or flashes of anger" as these may also be symptoms of your PTSD presenting itself.
Is it similar to depression?
According to Dr. Euba, many suffering from PTSD often misdiagnose themselves with depression, but the two are distinctly different with PTSD being caused by traumatic events and depression being triggered by a variant of life events that aren't limited to traumatic ones. Dr. Euba stresses that people be mindful of not dismissing a possible PTSD diagnosis as mild depression "because of the prevalence of depressive episodes," because it's common that "if you have PTSD, you can experience depressive symptoms", but the two are not interchangeable.
How is it treated?
Unlike depression, PTSD isn't normally treated with antidepressant medication, but if your symptoms include depressive episodes, depending on their severity, you may be prescribed with an antidepressant treatment to treat that first. PTSD-specific treatments include the two options of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, which respectively "helps patients to identify and cope with thoughts, behaviours and emotions" and "helps to change the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain, making them easier to manage."