Testing It Up

Boston Marathon Bombings Likely to Cause Mental Health Issues and PTSD Among Victims and Witnesses

Three days after the Boston Marathon explosions, health experts are concerned that people who witnessed them and/or got injured by them will experience mental health issues, such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Joyce Maguire Pavao, a psychologist who usually works in child welfare, told Huffington Post the tragedy is traumatic for “people that were involved, for those hurt, for those who saw them get hurt, for the people that helped afterwards.” And as the people of Boston return to their normal lives, PTSD and mental health problems may emerge in weeks, months and years after the trauma.

“Horrible images are ingrained in people’s minds, and there will be memories and triggers,” Pavao explained. “But you can manage them better if you have assistance, if you have someone to talk to.”

Across the city, trauma counselors, disaster chaplains and mental health professionals were dispatched to hospitals, churches and recovery resource centers to help those who are spiritually and emotionally drained and in shock, the article notes.

Lloyd Sederer, medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health, said many witnesses to the Boston bombings may begin to experience a general sense of fear, mental replays of the encounter and nightmares in the days and possibly weeks following the attack. He cautioned that a minority could develop longer-lasting PTSD and related symptoms, such as sudden debilitating flashbacks, anxiety, social isolation and drug and alcohol abuse.

As security is heightened in Boston, public health officials suggest rendering additional and tighter support to those who have been physically and emotionally impacted by the gruesome event.

April 18, 2013 at 12:00 am Comments (0)

Women More Prone to PTSD Than Men

A feature on Time.com shared the results of a study conducted by a group of scientists led by Dr. Kerry Ressler of Emory University. The study sought to understand the differences in the ability of people to recover from the trauma associated with violent attack, or violence witnessed in combat zones; those who are unable to recover from these experiences suffer from flashbacks, depression, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSDDr. Ressler and his team conducted a study of 64 traumatized civilian patients at the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The focus of their research was a hormone-like molecule called pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide, or PACAP. The molecule is known to have an effect on the response to stress at the cellular level.

The scientists determined that PACAP was present at higher levels among patients who suffered from PTSD, when compared against those who did not. In addition, they were also able to determine that as blood levels of PACAP increase, so does the severity of PTSD symptoms.

After the scientists split the data by gender, however, they observed that the link between PACAP and PTSD was only significant among women. This prompted the design of a follow-up study at the same hospital, this time consisting only of traumatized female patients. ABC News reported: “Again, PACAP levels correlated with PTSD symptoms — especially those considered essential for a diagnosis of PTSD: intrusive flashbacks, avoidance of trauma reminders and increased startle response.”

Dr. Ressler and his colleagues wrote the following: “These data may begin to explain sex-specific differences in PTSD diagnosis, symptoms and fear physiology.”

February 26, 2011 at 5:22 am Comments (0)

Veterans with PTSD and other Mental Issues at Risk For Heart Disease

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Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with PTSD and other mental issues are also facing a much higher risk for developing heart disease according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. While the link has been pointed out in the past this is the first time veterans of recent wars have been tested. Risk factors for heart disease were evaluated by the study which found that habits like smoking became much more prevalent in PTSD sufferers and those with anxiety disorders the rates were often double that of those without PTSD. The test group included 300,000 veterans, 88% of which were male and a quarter of which suffered from PTSD. Along with the smoking risk, factors like blood pressure, diabetes and obesity were evaluated during the almost seven year study. Women with PTSD were also sited as testing high for these risk factors but because the group of women was smaller the results are not as clear as with men.

August 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm Comment (1)