Experiencing trauma is common, and any traumatic event can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the United States, 7 to 8 percent of people will have PTSD in their lifetime, according to the National Center for PTSD.
PTSD can be a complicated mental health condition. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, and feeling jittery or alert. People with PTSD may also experience depression or anxiety, problems with drugs or drinking, or chronic pain.
If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, you do not have to suffer alone. Treatment is available and can be effective. Options include medication, counseling, and alternative types of therapy.
The Importance of Resilience
One frequently asked question about PTSD: What causes it? While two people may experience the same traumatic event, it is possible that just one of them will ever have PTSD. There are many risk factors that make it more or less likely that someone will experience PTSD.
One factor is a person’s background and experience. People who have been exposed to combat, engaged in violent behavior against others, or have a history of family physical or substance abuse are predisposed to developing PTSD. For example, veterans and victims of child abuse can be much more likely to develop PTSD.
Another factor: PTSD actually affects more women than men. About 10 percent of women develop PTSD, compared with 4 percent of men.
Resilience, defined as the ability to maintain a normal state despite difficult circumstances, is also a significant factor in whether someone does or does not develop PTSD. Many people are able to maintain their resilience when they experience traumatic events, and these individuals may be more independent, creative, or outgoing than their peers who are less resilient.
According to a review in Current Psychiatry, there are six psychosocial factors that are associated with resilience to both PTSD and everyday stress:
- Active coping styles, such as problem-solving and learning to handle emotions that accompany stress
- Regular physical exercise
- Positive outlook, such as embracing humor
- Moral compass
- Social support
- Cognitive flexibility, or the ability to think about things in different ways
These traits can have an effect on whether or not someone develops PTSD or experiences high levels of stress.
Types of PTSD Therapy
Treatment may differ from person to person, but most individuals find that a combination of approaches can be effective. This can include:
- Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, such as exposure therapy
In addition to these, many people with PTSD pursue other types of therapy to supplement their treatment. Veteran-focused organizations especially have been exploring unique ways to help individuals cope with PTSD.
Some veterans have found relief through fly fishing with Project Healing Waters, a program designed to help heal both visible and invisible war wounds.
Art therapy is another approach that has gained popularity among military personnel and veterans. A 2016 study, for example, found that creative activities like drawing and crafting may help people process trauma and improve PTSD symptoms.
Always consult your clinician when considering treatment or before engaging in alternative forms of therapy. PTSD affects everyone differently, and when developing a treatment plan, it is important to take those differences into consideration.
Personalize Your Medication Plan
If your clinican recommends medication for PTSD, ask if pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing can help. The results can help your clinician personalize your medication plan based on your unique genetic makeup.
Genomind® Professional PGx Express™, for example, looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment. It provides guidance across 10+ mental health conditions and 130+ medications to help clinicians determine:
- Which medications will likely be the most effective
- Which medications may have side effects
- How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance
The Genomind test requires a prescription. Wondering if it can help you? Learn more about Genomind here.
If you are a veteran, PTSD treatment and the Genomind test are available through the VA. Find your local VA here.
Does Your Medication Work for You?
Get a lifetime of smarter mental health treatment guidance. Genomind’s leading pharmacogenetic test was designed to help your clinician personalize your treatment plan based on your genetic profile.
About the Author
Stephen Stahl, MD, PhD, a Genomind Scientific Advisory Board member, is an internationally recognized clinician, researcher, and teacher in psychiatry with expertise in psychopharmacology.