Post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD, is something that a lot of people associate with seeing or being involved in a traumatic event such as service in the military, it can also extend to being diagnosed with cancer. PTSD can develop at any age, and not everyone diagnosed with PTSD has been through a traumatic event. A friend or family member may experience a trauma, or a sudden unexpected death can lead a loved one to experience PTSD.
The United States National Library of Medicine defines post-traumatic stress syndrome as, “an anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, such as military combat, violent assault, natural disaster, or other life-threatening events.”
Often when a person is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma it is after eliminating other more common diseases. This time can be an emotional roller coaster. For many it is mentally going from their usual excellent health to maybe a common condition like pneumonia, or an infection, to a diagnosis of a rare deadly cancer. The symptoms might have started as annoying, through the work up and elimination of other diseases it becomes a process that indicates a life altering diagnosis.
A recent article in the journal Cancer in November 2017, found that approximately one in five cancer patients reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within six months of diagnosis. After four years, about 6% of patients had PTSD.
In general PTSD affects approximately 3.5% or about 8 million, of the people in the United States. Not everyone that has experienced a traumatic event develops PTSD. Consisting of ongoing- chronic -or short term -acute- PTSD the symptoms can develop within one month of the traumatic event or years after. PTSD affects more women than men. Generally, the symptoms are divided into four different groups: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, changes in physical and emotional reactions. The diagnosis is made for adults they must have these symptoms for at least one month, at least one re-experiencing symptom. These symptoms can cause issues in everyday life. They can include flashbacks- reliving the traumatic event over and over and experiencing it physically. Avoidance symptoms which include staying away from places, events, or objects, that remind the person of the traumatic event and avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event. The 3rd symptom includes arousal and reactivity symptoms that include being easily startled, feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts. These symptoms are constant, leaving the person angry and stresses and with difficulty doing activities of daily living. The fourth category of symptoms are cognition and mood symptoms which include trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event, negative thoughts, distorted feelings of guilt or blame and loss of interest in enjoyable activities. When symptoms last more than a month, interfere with your ability to function and cannot be attributed to other mental health issues, substance abuse, medical issues it might be PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD includes medications, commonly an anti-depressant and psychotherapy – talking with a competent mental health professional who is knowledgeable in PTSD. Talk therapy with a competent professional can last 6- 12 weeks but for many people it can last a lot longer. With help the symptoms can improve gradually. Support of friends and relatives is also important, letting them into what triggers your symptoms also can help.
Post – traumatic stress disorder is a very serious condition, it can upset your relationships, livelihood, and your health. It is vital that the symptoms be recognized and to seek help. PTSD can be treated and managed but not cured. Reach out get help, improve your life and the lives of those who love you!