PTSD, which stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, is common in people who have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. It’s considered a mental health condition, but is it a neurological disorder?
What’s important to know first is that both mental health conditions and neurological disorders affect how the brain functions.
The two are not the same, however, and affect the brain differently, including the mental well-being and behavior of individuals to different extents.
So it’s important to know the difference!
Put simply, PTSD is considered both. It is a mental health condition (and mental health disorder) as well as a neurological disorder.
Despite that, no two diagnoses of PTSD are the same, as it can affect different individuals to varying extents.
So this short but complete guide will tell you everything you need to know, including PTSD explained, neurological disorders explained, the symptoms of PTSD, and how PTSD can be treated.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that affects some people who have experienced a traumatic event.
It can manifest shortly after a traumatic event, or over time due to repeated exposure, negatively affecting an individual’s mental processes, behavior, and overall mental and emotional well-being.
Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer from PTSD, which can depend on the individual themselves, as well as the severity or duration of the trauma experienced.
It is a mental health condition that can be higher among certain individuals, especially those with mentally and emotionally challenging occupations.
What Is A Neurological Disorder?
A neurological disorder is any kind of condition that negatively affects the nervous system. This includes the nerves themselves, spinal cord, and brain, meaning neurological disorders can be both mental and physical.
Examples of neurological disorders include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette’s syndrome
Neurological disorders can be genetic or caused by external factors. These external factors can include aging and degeneration, injury, or even a traumatic event that affects how the brain functions.
Is PTSD Considered A Neurological Disorder?
Since PTSD affects how the brain functions, PTSD is considered a neurological disorder. It is also considered a mental health disorder, especially in PTSD cases that are generally more severe.
There are different types of PTSD, however, which may result in different diagnoses. In some cases, PTSD may also develop into another type of PTSD through prolonged trauma exposure or a lack of treatment. Generally, the various types of PTSD include:
- Normal Stress Response – mild or moderate PTSD symptoms after a traumatic event, often lasting a few weeks
- Acute Stress Disorder – moderate PTSD symptoms that develop within a few weeks after a traumatic event, such as flashbacks and anxiety
- Uncomplicated PTSD – moderate to severe PTSD symptoms, such as flashbacks and nightmares, that last more than a month after a traumatic event
- Complex PTSD – moderate to severe PTSD symptoms that are often long-term, caused by repeated exposure to trauma
- Comorbid PTSD – varying symptoms of different types of PTSD that make it unable to diagnose the individual under a single type of PTSD
What Causes PTSD?
PTSD is caused by exposure to a traumatic event. It can be a single traumatic event, a combination of traumatic events, or through repeated exposure to a single traumatic event.
Depending on the trauma, as well as the individual, PTSD can negatively affect a person’s mental health to different extents.
Several common causes of PTSD can include:
- A serious accident or injury (painful or life-threatening)
- Assault or physical abuse
- A natural disaster
- Loss of a loved one
- Combat and warfare
- Excessive guilt
As a result, PTSD is typically more common among people with certain occupations, such as those serving in the army, healthcare workers, and first responders.
It can also develop through repeated exposure, existing mental health conditions, or through lack of a support system.
There are many different symptoms of PTSD, depending on the severity of the trauma experienced, the individual themselves, and the PTSD diagnosis. In general, however, PTSD symptoms can include:
- Hyperarousal (triggers caused by certain situations, conversations, or sensory stimulations)
- Nightmares (which can develop into various sleep disorders)
- Panic attacks
- Excessive guilt
- Avoidance of certain situations, people, or places (which can develop into agoraphobia, social anxiety, social isolation, and other mental health conditions and disorders)
- Irritability, excessive alertness, jumpiness, and other negative changes in behavior
Can PTSD Be Passed Down?
PTSD and its symptoms cannot be directly passed down genetically.
Despite that, some individuals may have a heightened risk of developing PTSD throughout their lives due to certain genetic or hereditary factors, such as personality traits, behavioral patterns, and anxiety disorders.
Can PTSD Be Treated?
For those suffering with PTSD, there are several treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, cure PTSD altogether, or, at the least, help individuals with PTSD to process and better deal with triggers, symptoms, and day-to-day life.
Some of the main PTSD treatments include:
- Psychotherapy – various forms of psychology treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
- Self-help methods – general self-help techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, healthy nutrition, and avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and stimulants
- Medication – prescribed medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication
- Support groups – expression and discussion of PTSD experiences with similar PTSD sufferers
As all experiences with PTSD are unique, PTSD treatment can be short or long-term, and can involve a single type of treatment or various types, which can depend on the quality of the treatment, the individual, and the trauma experienced.
Overall, PTSD is a type of neurological disorder, since it affects the brain and, as a result, the cognitive processes, behavior, and mental health of the individual suffering from PTSD.
It can be treated, however, through psychotherapy, medication, support systems, and general self-help methods.
Most importantly, if you know someone who may be suffering from PTSD, or believe you may be experiencing PTSD symptoms caused by a traumatic event, it’s important to seek professional help.
The support and treatment is available, so all it takes is reaching out.