How Does PTSD Affect Long and Short Term Physical Health?

Military Personnel of the US Army and PTSD

PTSD, also known as the psychological trauma, is the abbreviation of post-traumatic stress disorder and usually brought on by witnessing a terrifying or life-threatening event. PTSD causes both acute and long-term impacts on the victims. The acute impact simply is the body and mind’s response immediately after the event. This impact may include confusion, dissociation, panic, amnesia, agitation, and others. Some people may also develop acute stress disorder (ASD) with symptoms lasting for up to four weeks. According to statistics and past data, more than 80 percent of the people may go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. To make it easier for you to understand, if the symptoms of the acute impact last more than four weeks, the disorder is declared to be PTSD.

The chances of soldiers and people belonging to the military getting post-traumatic stress disorder are more as compared to civilians. The reason is not very difficult to identify; the soldiers are on the battlefront and they have to protect their country. In doing so, they have to go through mind shattering circumstances that can leave a great impact on the mind as well as the body. According to different studies conducted by different military health care departments, the trauma causes several changes to the brain. However, the effects of the trauma in the long term are yet to be determined and researches are being conducted on this topic in a big number.

Types of PTSD

In order to better understand the effects of PTSD in the short and long term of physical health, it is important to understand the types of PTSD. There are three different types of PTSD. These three types are listed below:

  • Acute PTSD – It is declared as acute PTSD if the symptoms last less than three months.
  • Chronic PTSD – Chronic PTSD has declared if the symptoms last for at least three months.
  • Delayed-onset PTSD – If the symptoms last more than 6 months, it is declared as delayed-onset PTSD.

Causes of PTSD

As discussed earlier, the post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is stimulated when a person witnesses a psychologically traumatic event, such as war, natural disaster, or any other situation that invokes the feelings of helplessness and intense fear. Most commonly, these are the soldiers who are more prone to this type of mental health condition. Some people having a strong heart, eventually adjust to the after effects of such dreadful events while for some people, the symptoms keep getting worse with the passage of time. These worsening symptoms are caused by PTSD.

One of the other more common causes of PTSD is the abuse soldiers have to go through once they are caught as war prisoners. The soldiers who have been abused for an extended period of time have more chances of getting chronic trauma and ultimately PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

The trauma caused by certain events leads to some symptoms that are hard to control but easy to identify. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Frequent Fainting
  • Stomach Ache
  • Pain and Stiffness in Muscles
  • Constipation
  • Anhedonia
  • Intense Guilt
  • Insomnia and Restlessness
  • Other chronic pain conditions

When the soldiers undergo some mission or a war, they have to protect their country and for this reason, they cannot resist from opening fire and killing the opponents. These are usually the first timers who have increased chances of getting PTSD because they are not used to seeing bloodshed and other disastrous situations. It is also worth mentioning that it is not usually the case that the person suffering from the mental trauma to possess all the symptoms at the same time. It may take some time to develop these symptoms simply because of the reason that the conditions of the trauma need time to appear. During this time, the person may show some unusual behavior.

The early symptoms of PTSD also give rise to some other medical conditions that only a healthcare official or doctor can detect. These medical conditions include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rise in the blood sugar levels
  • Disturbance in the Immune and Digestive System
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Vomiting

Besides these medical conditions, the sufferer may also undergo a shock that may make him speechless for a significant amount of time. There are also very increased chances of the soldiers getting involved in unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, that can lead them to obesity. In short, the health risks are quite high when it comes to PTSD. Moreover, there are also certain risks of promiscuity.

You should also note that just reducing the symptoms of PTSD is not the solution. The basic problem should be treated to bring back the individual to life and help them live a normal life again. The military personnel can take more time to recover completely because of the type of trauma and mental stress they are in, is very devastating. They should be motivated to come out of this situation. As mentioned earlier, it can be very easy for a lot of soldiers to face war situations and abuse, however, there are some people who are not as tough. Being a soldier does not mean that one has to be strong in every respect. Humans are very sensitive and even some minor issue can give them a mental trauma that can keep haunting them for ages to come.

These are some of the symptoms of trauma that leads to PTSD within weeks. There have been many reported cases of PTSD in the past and the number keeps on growing simply because the US Army is in a constant state of war around the world.

Short Term Effects of PTSD

Some of the short term effects of PTSD include memory loss for a short period of time. However, the memory loss can prolong for 2-3 days as well as a whole week. Fortunately, military health care departments have devised treatment plans that can alleviate the short term effects of PTSD.

Long Term Effects of PTSD

As mentioned earlier, the long term effects of PTSD are yet to be determined as there are many types of researches being conducted in different parts of the United States of America. So far, it has been discovered that the short term effects of PTSD can result in extreme mental stress in the long term that can lead the individual to death. America College of Cardiology has found out that mental stress caused by chronic trauma or PTSD can triple the risk of death. It is also probable that the individual may take the easy way out and commit suicide to get rid of the stress.

PTSD can lead to Coronary Blood Flow

The university of Florida conducted a research to study the long term effects of PTSD and they have discovered that almost one third of the patients suffering from PTSD can experience decreased coronary blood flow. The decreased blood flow to the heart muscles is not something to be taken lightly; it is very serious. The decreased blood flow means less supply of oxygen to the heart that can cause significant damage to the heart health. One of the most dangerous effects related to this condition is that the patient may also not realize it as it does not cause any sort of pain in the chest.

PTSD Raises Cholesterol in Healthy Adults

There is plenty of evidence available showing that the stress can increase the heart rate, lower the immune system, and increase the cholesterol level in adults. Since the soldiers are more vulnerable to the PTSD, there are chances that their cholesterol level increase significantly that may lead to other conditions like obesity, metabolic syndrome, lipid profile, increased waist circumference, and others.

One of the most dangerous situations related to this type of trauma is that the patients try to cope with it using self-medication. This can make the situation worse. During the war times or when the soldiers have to undergo torture and abuse, there is no one to provide the due care. Due to this reason, they try to do whatever they feel is right, which is the wrong approach. However, the other side of the picture suggests that there is nothing more that can be done in this sort of a situation besides the feeling, it gives to the person that at least they are trying to survive in these sort of tough conditions and can be very satisfying for the person themselves.

Medication Side Effects

With medication, although the patient can get a lot better than otherwise, there are some side effects that cannot be neglected at any costs. Some of the side effects of the medication are:

Dry Mouth

Due to the intake of medicine, the mouth of the patient can become dry, making them drink lots of water. There is no harm in drinking lots of water but it would increase the need to void frequently. In such a situation, the mental health of the patient is not very satisfying and that is why frequent urge to urinate can make them aggressive. You may witness some signs of restlessness and irritation in the person. Dry mouth can also be cured using ice cubes but for military personnel, ice is not recommended.

Increased Appetite

As mentioned earlier, the PTSD can make the patient obese. This does not happen eventually but gradually. Due to the medication, the appetite of the patient can increase significantly and they may consume lots of food to satisfy their appetite and achieve satiety. This can increase the level of fats in their body and they may not burn any calories to remain in the best physical shape. In normal citizens, it may not be a matter of concern but for military personnel, it is of prime importance to achieve the best level of fitness and obese persons cannot be fit no matter what. Some anti-depressants have a higher likelihood of causing weight gain than others.

Blurred Vision

PTSD is not an easy situation to be in. There are certain risks associated with it which cannot be ignored and should be taken very seriously. The US Army pay certain attention towards the vision of their soldiers and with the medication of PTSD, there have been many cases of blurred vision reported in the past 5 years. According to the result conducted by the University of Florida, soldiers suffering from PTSD were examined after their courses of medication were completed and almost one-third of them claimed that their vision has become weak.

Quick Aging

Although it is yet to prove with the medications used for treating PTSD, aging process boosts up which can be very dangerous for the patient and damaging for the Army. It costs a significant amount of money to train an army officer and it is surely not an easy job. Soldiers suffering from mental stress, trauma, and PTSD have a higher chance of aging quickly. Even after complete recovery from this medical condition, it can be very difficult for the army officers to maintain the required levels of fitness and energy. This may lead to early retirement or even court-martial. Veterans are at a higher risk of aging at an accelerated rate and this is the reason why counseling is preferred along with medications to make the person recover quickly and making sure that there is no mental issue promoting in the patient.

These are some of the risks associated with the medication of PTSD. There are different military health care centers for veterans where the right treatment is provided to the army officials across the United States of America.