Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic and terrifying event, causing severe anxiety, flashbacks, depression, and nightmares. PTSD can occur as a result of a single event or a prolonged period of exposure to trauma.
PTSD can occur as a result of many different traumatic events. Military combat, sexual assault, child abuse, muggings, kidnappings, and vehicle accidents are examples of events that can cause PTSD.
Millions of people are affected by PTSD and its issues in the different facets of life. It can create a risk for many other mental health conditions and severely deteriorate one's physical health.
There is help out there for what you may be going through. You are not alone, and there are many resources for people struggling with their mental health. Speaking to a mental health professional about your PTSD or the PTSD of a loved one can be an effective step towards treatment.
The three articles below touch on some important and relevant discussions of PTSD stories and research. The articles discuss the benefits of music and exercise for PTSD and the possible influence COVID-19 can have on increasing the number of those experiencing PTSD.
Music And PTSD
The article titled "Music and Trauma: the relationship between music, personality, and coping style" discusses music as a way to cope with trauma. Music therapy, community music programs, or individual engagement with music all can play a role in coping with trauma. The article argues that more research needs to be done while understanding the individuality in the responses to art or music therapy.
The article refers to a case study where children of 8-11 years of age who had survived a tornado in the United States were assisted by music in helping them transition back to school life. This was a healthy way for them to process their trauma. Another study involved some of the survivors of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. They were part of a music program designed to reduce stress and help process the trauma. This was done through singing, songwriting, and sharing stories.
The article recognizes that while many can benefit from music or art therapy, not everyone may respond the same way to the same stimuli. One study showed that adolescent boys who listened to music as a coping strategy for emotion tended to have higher levels of depression. Girls who used music listening as a coping strategy oriented towards problems tended to have lower levels of depression.
While music and art therapy have been known to be effective, the article urges more attention towards coping styles due to how individual our responses are to creative mediums. The article's information is hopeful, knowing that music can be so effective in trauma recovery, and it is also helpful that the article raises awareness about coping styles.
PTSD In The Time Of COVID-19
The article titled PTSD as the second tsunami of the SARA-Cov-2 pandemic "PTSD as the second tsunami of the SARA-Cov-2 pandemic"is an important piece on how the global pandemic of COVID-19 has and can continue to cause PTSD.
The article was published in April of 2020 when people were getting used to quarantine and grappling with the pandemic's devastating consequences. The pandemic created a great amount of anxiety in everyone.
The article begins with an outline of the virus's outbreak in late 2019 and the rapid increase in worldwide cases. Epidemic situations have promoted PTSD in the past as well. The SARS virus in 2003 was traumatizing for many. The current SARS-Cov-2 is an evocation of those anxieties on a very large scale.
PTSD, as a result of the SARS-Cov-2 crisis that we are still experiencing today, can contribute to future PTSD in different ways:
- Hospital quarantines
This was one of the first methods of handling the virus, where patients were surrounded by healthcare workers wearing hazmat suits, which is not something we see every day. It is an experience outside the normal range of usual human experience and can contribute to stress-induced trauma.
The media has been covering the current pandemic since it began, with the recurring message of our mortality and the propagation of the fear of dying.
- Home quarantine
Most countries have imposed lockdown measures and have emphasized the importance of limiting travel for non-essential reasons. This has not happened in most developed countries since the World Wars.
- Cases and the families of cases
Many families have had to grapple with the loss of loved ones due to the virus, which has intensified many difficult emotions. This can contribute to PTSD as well.
- Healthcare workers
Healthcare workers are at risk for developing acute stress disorders, which can lead to chronic PTSD. Medical emergencies are already a part of routine medical practice, a major stressor for healthcare workers. During COVID-19, healthcare workers have had to deal with such emergencies, such as choosing which patients may benefit from limited equipment like assisted ventilation. These choices can determine the life or death of many cases, which can contribute greatly to stress and be highly traumatic for everyone involved.
The article aims to draw attention to PTSD as a secondary effect of the pandemic because of how many people it can affect and its stigma. Many who experience PTSD do not seek help due to barriers such as lack of information, stigmatization, and the belief that symptoms may fade over time.
Healthcare policies will have to develop prevention strategies for PTSD due to the pandemic that has affected billions all over the world. There should also be additional efforts towards destigmatizing PTSD and mental health treatment.
The article tells us how COVID-19 can promote PTSD in populations. Additionally, if you are already experiencing PTSD, the pandemic can cause greater anxiety. Raising awareness of PTSD and seeking help when needed should be normalized, especially in these trying times.
Exercise Intervention In PTSD
The 2019 article titled "Exercise Intervention in PTSD: A Narrative Review and Rationale for Implementation" discusses aerobic exercise as an effective treatment option for those experiencing PTSD. Only treatment plans from mental health professionals should be followed, but there are ways you can try to improve your mental health with simple lifestyle changes as well, which the article examines.
Aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on PTSD symptoms through desensitization to internal arousal cues. Arousal refers to the body going into high-alert while thinking about trauma. Arousal symptoms can include being easily startled or being very tense. Aerobic exercise can also enhance cognitive function and reduce inflammatory markers. PTSD patients can often have increased levels of certain chemicals or markers in their bodies that suggest dysfunction of their immune-inflammatory system, which is the system that regulates our response to harmful stimuli.
Diagnosis of PTSD is characterized by four categories of symptoms:
- The intense reliving of the traumatic event; memories, flashbacks, nightmares
- Avoiding reminders of the event
- Negative mood
Many people who experience PTSD are at higher risk for other conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and a loss of productivity, and impaired cognitive performance.
Many barriers exist for treatment, such as stigma, cost, and access to information and care. Exercise is an intervention that is highly accessible, has a lower relative cost, and does not have the same negative stigma that mental health treatment has.
Physical activity and exercise are distinct from one another, despite being terms that are used interchangeably. Physical activity is any movement by our muscles that results in energy expenditure. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive. It is often intended to improve physical fitness. Exercise and regular physical activity like walking, dancing, or cycling to improve cardiorespiratory fitness can greatly benefit mental health alongside physical health.
The research focuses on aerobic exercise that improves cardiorespiratory fitness. Exercise such as yoga was not included in the study, as it has less of an impact on cardiorespiratory fitness than aerobic exercise. Nineteen relevant studies were chosen to examine the relation between PTSD symptoms and aerobic exercise.
From all the observational and intervention PTSD case studies in the article, it can be concluded that exercise, alone or in combination with standard treatment, does have a positive impact on PTSD symptoms and mental health. This pattern was observed among military members as well as civilian populations. However, the effects can vary depending on the severity of the PTSD and the exercise's intensity.
The article categorizes the ways exercise can exert a positive effect on those experiencing PTSD.
- Exposure And Desensitization To Internal Arousal Cues: As exercise causes bodily reactions like a rapid heartbeat, which is similar to hyperarousal, exercise can behave as exposure to arousal cues and lead to desensitization. This exposure can help the PTSD experience slowly become aware that the arousal symptoms are not necessarily related to a catastrophic or traumatic event and stop associating those symptoms with the negative experience.
- Improved Cognitive Function Most studies oriented towards studying cognitive function focus on older adults, but they suggest that aerobic exercise improves memory, focus, and the ability to multitask, which is a bright idea.
- Normalization Of Stress And Physiological Processes Many people who experience PTSD have low cortisol levels in their system. Cortisol is a hormone that helps our body respond to stress. Exercise can result in higher levels of cortisol, which can help with PTSD symptoms. Additionally, it is possible that exercise can benefit our immune-inflammatory response, which improves sleep regulation.
The article encourages more detailed clinical trials that can firmly establish the relationship between PTSD and exercise.
While exercise can help with depression and anxiety, it is encouraging to know that exercise can help with PTSD as well.
Test For PTSD
If you or a loved one may be experiencing PTSD, taking a PTSD test can help. It can provide key information about the condition and give you some clarity regarding your troubles.
This test does not replace an official consultation with a licensed medical professional. It is a tool to help you determine if you would like to seek professional help for your symptoms.
The articles tell us about coping methods, treatment strategies, and possible future PTSD communities' issues. The information regarding music and exercise and their positive benefits is encouraging, especially considering their fairly high accessibility. However, there is still a lot of research that must be done to help those who experience PTSD and give them greater clarity and more detailed information.
The current pandemic that the world is experiencing can increase the number of people experiencing PTSD, which is a dire thought. With awareness, destigmatization, and improved policies, those who experience trauma and PTSD can be reached and helped.
Taking a diagnostic test for you or a loved one can give you important information and help put you on the right path towards treatment. Taking steps outside of standard treatment to take care of yourself with exercise and creative expression can help your mental health.