By Dr. Gerard Muraida

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events, or set of circumstances. An individual may experience this as emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening, and it may affect mental, physical, social, and/or spiritual well-being. Examples of causes include natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, war/combat, rape/sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and bullying,

This is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the recognition of its existence and its place in medicine as a condition that deserves treatment. In 2000, George Mosse wrote in the Journal of Contemporary History about the origin of the term shell shock. In 1915, the British Journal Lancet first published an article describing the association of symptoms associated with the effects of artillery shell explosions. Many of these young men in the British army were criticized for character flaws; some were even court martialed.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine Review reported that its research in 2015 showed that the brain tissue of combat veterans who had been exposed to explosive devices exhibited a pattern of injury in the areas responsible for decision-making, memory, and reasoning. This evidence has led researchers to conclude that shell shock may not be limited to a psychological disorder since the physical symptoms exhibited by affected individuals from the First World War are very similar to these injuries.

The Journal Lancet Neurology in 2022 reported that research on the brains of deceased armed forces service members found that “all five cases with chronic blast exposure showed prominent astroglial scarring that involved the subpial glial plate, penetrating cortical blood vessels, gray–white matter junctions, and structures lining the ventricles; all cases of acute blast exposure showed early astroglial scarring in the same brain regions.” Immense pressure changes are involved in shell shock. Even mild changes in air pressure from weather have been linked to changes in behavior.

In layman’s terms, the brain may sustain true injury in the form of concussive damage as a result of noise and pressure change. This may explain behavior changes as a result of brain injury.

A 2021 Journal of Missouri Medicine review article stated that approximately 6 percent of the adult population in the United States will at some point during their lifetime meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Among the U.S. military veteran population, the variance in studies has ranged from approximately 30 percent of the Vietnam era veterans to more recently about14 percent of veterans serving in the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

As for treatment, the article said that focused trauma psychotherapy produced positive results with fewer side effects for a longer duration than pharmaceutical trials.

If you or a loved one have suffered a trauma at any time in your life, please seek assistance from your health care provider who can start the process of healing.

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