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Could you be genetically predisposed to developing PTSD?

Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition which is difficult to treat. Women are twice as likely to have PTSD compared to men.

ptsd

About 1 in 5 soldiers returning home from war will develop PTSD. What is not known is why some soldiers are more at risk for PTSD than others. However, a breakthrough may be on the horizon — researchers recently discovered that the disorder may be genetic.

A large, detailed study of 150,000 U.S. war veterans found eight specific genetic regions that suggest that some people are genetically predisposed to an increased risk of developing PTSD.

The study found eight specific genetic regions in the brain that are associated with PTSD and those regions are linked to the brain regions that regulate stress responses.

It’s not only soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Anyone suffering from past trauma can develop the disorder. Possible precursors include military combat, hostage or kidnap situations, witnessing violent deaths, physical threats, childhood neglect or abuse, sexual assault, natural disasters, serious accidents and animal attacks.

Symptoms that may occur with PTSD include nightmares, sweating and shaking, emotional or mental numbness, inability to remember parts of the event, insomnia, feelings of detachment from others, lack of concentration and a lack of interest in family or social activities.

The most common treatment for PTSD is an antidepressant such as Effexor, Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft but —as with all pharmaceutical drugs — these medications can have potentially harmful side effects.

Nondrug interventions that may help include cognitive therapy, exposure therapy and EMDR eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, a type of psychotherapy that’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating PTSD.

Another natural treatment option for PTSD is meditation. Levels of stress, anxiety and depression decreased significantly among a group of cadets who practiced transcendental meditation twice daily. The cadets also showed improvement in in critical thinking and mental resilience.

PTSD is also common among survivors of natural disasters. As the number of natural disasters continues to climb, the psychological toll on human beings is growing, as well.

Among those with pre-existing mental health issues, a natural disaster is very likely to make them worse. And, vice versa — those who had no mental health problems before the disaster may develop mental issues in the aftermath.

Coping mechanisms for survivors include staying healthy with proper nutrition, exercise and sleep, maintaining a normal routine, avoiding excess exposure to news and using relaxation techniques to stay calm.

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