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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

A person who encountered or witnessed a traumatic or horrifying incident where there was substantial physical harm or threat can develop a serious condition called posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), formerly known as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome. These traumatic experiences can leave people feeling incredibly terrified, powerless, or horrified. Sexual or physical abuse, the unexpected loss of a loved one, an accident, a war, or a natural disaster are a few examples of events that might cause PTSD. Families of victims, rescuers, and emergency personnel are all at risk for developing PTSD. Most trauma survivors go through a spectrum of feelings after the occurrence, including shock, resentment, worry, dread, and even guilt. These feelings are natural, and for the vast majority of individuals, they eventually go away. For someone with PTSD, these emotions persist and worsen, becoming so intense that they prevent them from living normally. Individuals with PTSD have symptoms for more than a month and are less able to function than before the event that set it off.

What causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Everyone responds differently to distressing circumstances. Each person has a different capacity for controlling anxiety, stress, and the challenges presented by a traumatic event or circumstance. Consequently, not every individual who encounters a traumatic event will have PTSD. The degree of support and care someone receives from friends, family, and specialists in the aftermath of the trauma may have an effect on how quickly they develop PTSD or how severe their symptoms are. The names "shell shock" and "battle fatigue syndrome" were coined by combat veterans who raised PTSD to the forefront of the medical community for the first time. Yet, PTSD may appear in anybody who has experienced a terrible incident. PTSD is more likely to occur in those who experienced abuse as very young children, those who have mental health problems, or the ones who were frequently exposed to severe dangers.

What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can generally be grouped into four types:

  • intrusive memories,
  • avoidance,
  • negative changes in thinking and mood,
  • physical symptoms and emotional reactions. Intrusive memories of a traumatic event may include flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems, and distressing recollections of the event. People may also experience emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the traumatic event. Additionally, they may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger. Children and teens may also experience PTSD symptoms, such as getting upset if their parents are not close by, having trouble sleeping, acting out the trauma in their play, having nightmares, becoming more irritable or aggressive, or having trouble concentrating. Most frequently, PTSD symptoms appear three months after the traumatic incident. But still, they occasionally don't start until years later. The condition can range in severity and length. While some people recover better within six months, others take considerably longer.

Risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is more likely to affect those who have already been traumatized by events like rape, accidental deaths, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, natural disasters, or violent acts. Other risk factors that increase the chance to develop PTSD include being a refugee, heredity, other mental health problems, having additional stressors on top of the trauma, such as economic inequality, instability, or grieving, and a lack of supportive resources.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD can be identified by a mental health professional with expertise in treating patients with mental illnesses. The doctor will do a mental health evaluation and perhaps a physical as well. PTSD affects people differently but you should have all of the symptoms of PTSD for a minimum of one month in order to be diagnosed with this condition:

  • at least one re-experiencing symptom
  • at least one sign of avoidance symptom
  • two or more arousal and reactivity signs
  • two or more mental and emotional symptoms

Is PTSD common?

Yes, PTSD is common. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 5 out of every 100 (or 5%) person experiences symptoms in the U.S. in any given year. Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 6 out of every 100 people (or 6%) will have a traumatic experience at some point in their lives. Furthermore, NIMH also reports that the prevalence of PTSD among adolescents is higher for females (8.0%) than for males (2.3%).

What are the treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD can be treated in two ways for now, but upcoming research is showing the significance of unconventional options too. The first is therapy, a form of use of therapeutic approaches often based on routine and direct communication, second is medication and alternative options like MDMA therapy is on the rise of scientific and public attention.

Cognitive processing therapy

Cognitive processing therapy is the major kind of psychotherapy used to heal PTSD patients. The purpose of this kind of treatment is to show a PTSD patient how to analyze and alter the distressing ideas that have been left behind by traumatic events. According to therapists, a person may alter their emotional state by modifying their thought patterns. Psychotherapy can alter a patient's perspective on the world or how they think about it after a traumatic occurrence. Therapy helps patients attempt to view their events from a different viewpoint since patients frequently blame themselves for what occurred. This form of therapy can be done in a group setting too.

A butterfly with a broken wing symbolizing trauma


The second technique to heal PTSD is antidepressants. To counteract the effects of stress, antidepressants act on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory formation. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are the two categories of antidepressants (SNRIs).

How effective are existing treatments?

Many individuals benefit from counseling, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, but these treatments frequently fall short. According to studies, individuals who have experienced several traumas over a long period of time or who have persistent PTSD do not respond well to antidepressants. According to a recent study, individuals with long-standing PTSD or those who still had symptoms after receiving antidepressant therapy did not respond any better to the antipsychotic risperidone than they did to placebo in terms of reducing typical PTSD symptoms. As a result of the unpleasant side effects that these medications have, some victims are left to continue to suffer from PTSD. The majority of these patients start abusing drugs, struggle with controlling their rage, or kill themselves. According to research that examined data from the National Comorbidity Survey, of the six anxiety illnesses, PTSD was strongly linked to suicidal ideation.

A new way of treating PTSD

These recent advances in psychedelic research have generated encouraging results. Recent studies have shown that psychotherapy along with low doses of psilocybin or MDMA may be effective treatments for those who have PTSD or other mental diseases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified both treatments as breakthrough therapies, which is a priority classification granted to promising medications created to address an unmet medical need. The FDA provides continuing assistance to the pharmaceutical business all across the clinical research and gives them priority consideration once the results are ready. From July 1, 2023, licensed psychiatrists may administer psilocybin-containing medications to patients with treatment-resistant depression in Australia. Also, the new amendment in Australia permits MDMA-containing medications to be recommended for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Click here to find a licensed psychiatrist and begin your psychedelic therapy.

Can Psilocybin Help?

Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance found in "magic mushrooms," may function by encouraging nerve cell renewal in regions of the brain involved in emotion and memory, according to some evidence from animal research from a University of South Florida report from 2013. Psilocybin increases neurogenesis, the development and regeneration of brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for emotion and memory. In the study, psilocybin-treated mice performed better against fear training than mice who received a placebo. The study provided evidence in favor of the idea that psilocybin might assist in preventing the traumatic cycle that develops in PTSD patients.

Can MDMA help?

MDMA changes how emotions are processed and enhance social interaction. It helps builds emotional ties. Because of this, MDMA may be a better treatment for PTSD than other medications. According to several studies, administering MDMA to octopuses helped them to be more sociable. With a dose of MDMA PTSD victims manages to open up and talk about their experiences in a therapeutic setting. That way they are experiencing their traumatic event while talking about it, and then they feel a surge of self-compassion that helps them move on and let the past go. The therapist establishes a secure environment and serves as a non-prescriptive guide during the therapeutic session.


The process of getting over PTSD is gradual and lifelong in some cases. Although PTSD symptoms rarely entirely go away, counseling can educate patients on better-coping mechanisms. Therapy can result in fewer and less severe symptoms as well as an improved capacity to control trauma-related emotions. Although there is still much to learn about the potential of psychedelic treatment, the information that has been found so far is encouraging. Especially for those who have severe PTSD.

Vivien Freeflow

Vivien Freeflow ยท 3/27/2023

Decorative Wave
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Reviewed by

Hope Martyn

Hope Martyn

Freelance Native Content Writer & Reviewer

Hi, I'm Hope, I'm a native English Speaker from England but based now in Portugal. I love all things Technological, Travel and Mental Well being. I also have a BA Hons Media Production degree.