In the wake of severe psychological or physical trauma, the brain develops difficulty processing and contextualizing memories in normal, optimal ways. As a result, individuals can become plagued by episodes of trauma, most commonly including a threat of death such as violence, natural disaster, sexual assault and war. For many individuals, trauma exists unresolved just under the surface of consciousness in a persistent anxiety disorder known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Marked by dissociative and hypervigilant traits, PTSD affects millions of Americans each year.
The Need for PTSD Awareness and Education
For those with PTSD, each day can become a struggle as they face secondary consequences of the disorder, such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, job loss and isolation. Furthermore, the internal nature of the disorder often leaves friends and loved ones experiencing confusion, disbelief or frustration at the sufferer’s condition, leading to both relational strains and a distinct lack of support for patients. Although studies have repeatedly shown the reality of PTSD – with brain scans able to show shrinkage in the brain’s hippocampus and diagnostic scans diagnosing the condition with 90-percent surety, many misconceptions about the disorder remain.
PTSD Facts and Statistics
Here are a few facts and statistics about post-traumatic stress disorder, those who suffer from the condition and the consequences of unresolved PTSD.
- More than five million Americans suffer from PTSD annually.
- Estimates suggest that one in 13 U.S. citizens will develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some point during course of their lives.
- One in three rape victims will develop PTSD.
- Though reasons remain unclear, 10 percent of women will receive diagnoses of PTSD, while only five percent of men are diagnosed with the disorder.
- Three out of 10 individuals who have spent civilian or military time in a war zone will develop PTSD.
- PTSD has been heavily associated with alcohol abuse, with more than half of sufferers becoming alcohol dependent.
- Nicotine dependency among individuals with PTSD occurs at twice the rate of the general population, with 45 percent of those with the anxiety disorder regularly smoking cigarettes.
- Individuals suffering from PTSD engage in abuse of illegal and prescription drugs at a rate of 35 percent — nearly three times the rate of drug abuse in the general population.
- Among veterans, those who come under fire experience higher rates of PTSD development. In fact, those with a single exposure develop PTSD at the general-population rate of 4.5 percent, while those with two firefights had an incidence rate of over nine percent. Thirteen percent of those who came under fire three to five times developed PTSD, while one in five soldiers with more than five exposures to firefight developed PTSD.
- Enlisted soldiers experience PTSD at a rate that is double that of officers.
- Soldiers in the Marines and Army have been found to be four times more likely to develop PTSD as individuals serving in the Air Force or Navy.