Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is often put under the umbrella of “anxiety disorders”, although nowadays it is often given its own separate section in some mental health manuals. There are many similarities with anxiety disorders, in that there are abnormal levels of norepinephrine and cortisol (usually low levels of both) in the blood in comparison to those without PTSD. Whilst antidepressants may prove effective for PTSD, there do seem to be some marked differences in terms of how biochemical changes in the brain and body occur when compared to depression. So, whilst PTSD can share similar symptoms with anxiety and depression (and could well be a co-morbid condition), there are definitely many differences between the conditions.

Those with PTSD have a smaller hippocampus, and there seems to be an abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Exposure to traumatic events can increase the likelihood of suffering from PTSD, and the HPA axis that coordinates the response to stress activates the LC-noradrenergic system, which results in an over-consolidation of specific memories. Those with PTSD also have chronically low levels of serotonin.

Approximately 5% of Americans – around 13 million people – have PTSD at any one given time. An estimated 8% of adults, or 1 in 13 people, in the US will develop PTSD during their lifetime.

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