One area of mental health which deserves more awareness is PTSD. Learn more about this condition, including its surprising connection to ADHD.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder which may develop after a particularly stressful or scary experience. There's a difference between PTSD and typical feelings of fear or anxiety in response to intense situations, such as a serious accident, violent encounter, natural disaster, or war. The body's fight or flight response kicks in when a situation is dangerous or disturbing, but those symptoms are usually temporarily intense and then taper off in the coming hours, days, or weeks, depending on the severity of the event.

With PTSD, however, the reactions last far longer. Symptoms persist for over one month and are severe enough that they interfere with the patient's daily life. Mental health disturbances related to PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, and angry outbursts, can be very troubling and difficult to manage. PTSD may cause someone to avoid or have very intense reactions to things which remind them of the traumatic event they experienced. For example, a veteran may develop high sensitivity to loud, sudden noises due to their PTSD from combat. PTSD can also negatively affect how someone views themself and lead to distorted thought patterns.

How Should PTSD Be Treated?

There are a number of PTSD treatment options which may help to relieve the symptoms of the disorder. The most highly recommended out of these options is psychotherapy, which can be very effective in the treatment of PTSD. There are a few types of psychotherapy that are used to treat this condition, including:

  • Cognitive therapy: PTSD patients in cognitive therapy identify what types of cognitive patterns they have which are contributing to their condition and then work on ways to overcome that type of thinking.
  • Exposure therapy: This type of therapy involves repeated exposure to the things a patient fears or avoids, such as an object, activity, or environment related to a traumatic event. By doing this in a safe space, exposure therapy can help to minimize the patient's fear and avoidance.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Commonly known as simply EMDR, this type of therapy involves processing traumatic memories while simultaneously doing specific guided eye movements in an effort to heal from those experiences.

Medications may also be helpful for some individuals with PTSD. Depending on the patient's unique symptoms, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.

Mental Health Care Concerns for PTSD

It's important for people with PTSD to receive quality mental health care. Otherwise, their condition may cause serious ramifications in their personal lives. With proper care, patients suffering from PTSD can see real improvements in their quality of life.

Unfortunately, there are some barriers to care which may make it harder to get the right PTSD treatment. For one, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding PTSD. Some people might avoid seeking care out of fear that they may be judged by others, discriminated against at work, or viewed as unstable or dangerous. They may feel ashamed or weak due to their condition, despite the fact that it is a legitimate mental health issue.

Other problems someone might encounter when seeking PTSD treatment include lack of access to a therapist or challenges with the transportation or cost involved.

The Surprising Link Between ADHD and PTSD

Studies on PTSD and ADHD have shown that there appears to be a biological connection between the two. People with PTSD and people with ADHD show dysfunctional activity in the same parts of the brain. Essentially, both conditions involve abnormal fear circuitry in the brain, which indicates that people with ADHD could be predisposed to develop PTSD after a traumatic event.

Further complicating matters is the fact that some symptoms of PTSD overlap with ADHD symptoms, including:

  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeplessness
  • Inattention
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimuli
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood disorder
  • Inclination to self-medicate

Certain symptoms of ADHD also may make someone more likely to encounter a traumatic event with the potential to cause PTSD. For example, people with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky behaviors or experience relational problems.

When they co-occur, PTSD and ADHD can worsen one another. Having ADHD makes PTSD harder to treat and manage, and vice versa. That's why it's so important to get the correct treatment for each of these conditions.

The first-line treatment for ADHD is medication, while the most important type of treatment for PTSD is therapy. However, therapy can also help with ADHD, while medications may help with PTSD. If you're seeing different healthcare providers for each of these conditions, make sure they work together to come up with a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your unique needs.