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The Rising PTSD Problem and How Bold Businesses Could Solve It

someone pondering the causes of PTSD

For many years, it was a popular belief that only military veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Particularly after the Vietnam conflict, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults became more common. But in more recent decades, it also became clear this mental health condition affected non-military victims as well. In fact, a significant percentage of adults suffer from PTSD today, and effective treatments are lacking. This is why many experts recognize PTSD as a major problem today in terms of mental healthcare and wellness.

a brain thinking about the causes of PTSD
A multitude of causes of PTSD means a multitude of diagnoses.

(The medicinal uses for cannabis are undeniable–read more in this Bold story.)

For roughly three decades, approved treatments for PTSD have been lacking. Certainly, some medications and therapies offer benefit to the millions suffering from this condition. But complete remissions are uncommon, and secondary complications are numerous. Plus, in the aftermath of the pandemic and other social stressors, post-traumatic stress disorder in adults is on the rise. This is particularly true of younger adults who today experience higher rates of stress and trauma by report. It’s evident that new interventions are needed desperately to address this growing mental health crisis. This is where businesses can come to the rescue with solutions ranging from prevention to treatment.

Causes of PTSD and Its Recent Rise

As the name implies, post-traumatic stress disorder in adults is caused by some type of trauma. But defining what qualifies as a triggering trauma continues to be debatable among mental health professionals. In the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, trauma had to reach specific criteria. Near-death, the threat of death, witnessing death, sexual and physical violence, and the threat of such were among qualifying events. But it has become clear that lesser traumas can result in PTSD symptoms as well. Other causes of PTSD might include any experience that creates a profound anxiety response serious enough to create fear and panic. If subsequent symptoms such as avoidance, negative thoughts, intrusive re-experiencing, and excessive arousal result, then PTSD is probable. However, this may not meet specific criteria for diagnosis in some settings.

It is now readily appreciated the pandemic was a notable trigger for a rise in post-traumatic stress disorder in adults. Lockdowns, social isolation, loss of loved ones, and fear of contracting COVID all contributed. And as it turns out, young adults were particularly vulnerable. From 2017 to 2022, the rate of PTSD in young adults doubled from 3.4% to 7.5%. While some experienced more routine causes of PTSD, many developed symptoms simply as a result of the pandemic alone. Certainly, other factors may have been at play including social unrest, campus shootings, and a divisive political climate. However, this doesn’t change the fact that PTSD is increasing and that new treatments are needed.

a soldier talking to a head shrinker
With pandemics, school shootings and other big stressors, we live in a world where PTSD grows more and more common.

The Threat of Poor PTSD Treatment

The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults are profound by themselves. The avoidance of past stressors and trauma naturally interfere with one’s quality of life as does re-experiencing negative feelings. But these same symptoms also discourage those with PTSD from seeking care. Combined with worries about the stigma of mental illness and the lack of treatment, less than half seek medical care. These figures increased during the pandemic due to the rise in telehealth for mental health services. But statistics still show a small portion of actual PTSD patients receive a diagnosis and care. This is a serious concern since research supports that a third of people develop PTSD after trauma exposure. Regardless which of the causes of PTSD may be present, identification and management of the condition remains poor.

(The government isn’t keen on allowing MDMA to be used to treat PTSD–read more in this Bold story.)

In terms of the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults, several are worth noting. Avoidance behaviors and negativity make it difficult for individuals to function well in society. This undermines relationships and social supports. It also makes it difficult for PTSD individuals to find work and maintain employment. In addition, suicide rates are significantly higher among those diagnosed with PTSD compared to other groups. On average, the risk of suicide increases six to 10 times with the diagnosis. Various causes of PTSD and their related severity can influence this risk. But in all cases, these individuals need support and attention to reduce these risks. As a result, both preventative and interventional innovations are needed.

Current and Future PTSD Care Needs

an image showing post-traumatic stress disorder in adults
Post-traumatic stress disorder in adults is a growing problem–is there a solution?

There are several treatments used for post-traumatic stress disorder in adults today. These include various therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. In addition, some medications like SSRI antidepressants and atypical antipsychotic meds also help some individuals. But from a broader perspective, effective treatments are lacking. Less than a third achieve long-term remission with current interventions. Combined with rising PTSD cases and recognition of other causes of PTSD, this is worrisome. Not only are better medications and care required, but efforts to improve resilience and access to case is essential. Mental health services need to be expanded, and efforts to protect individuals from lasting effects of trauma are important.

Understanding this, bold business opportunities exist to address this advancing social issue. From a prevention perspective, health and wellness strategies to build mental resilience could be an intriguing endeavor. Acting as a buffer to protect individuals, resilience building exercises could be implemented at an organization or corporate level. Likewise, businesses that identify innovative ways to expand mental healthcare access would be greatly welcomed. Not only would this enhance care for post-traumatic stress disorder in adults but other conditions as well. And businesses that advocate and support new treatments like MDMA for PTSD would further help those already suffering. These types of treatments target more the causes of PTSD at a brain level. In any case, businesses have a chance to answer the call to address what seems to be a rising PTSD issue. Hopefully solutions can be devised sooner rather than later.


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