PTSD Awareness Month: Understanding effects of aging on seniors with PTSD - Sovereign Health Group
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The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that post-traumatic stress symptoms can emerge or re-emerge later in life as the aging process could have an adverse impact on preexisting mental health ailments or trigger the development of new disorders. Studies suggest that around 15 percent of senior adults may experience and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) owing to the following reasons:

  • Retirement creates a thought-provoking vacuum in people’s lives with more time for introspection and fewer distractions.
  • Aging-related health concerns that can be aggravated by PTSD symptoms.
  • Flashbacks of negative memories or trauma of the past continuing to haunt the individual.
  • Unhealthy means to cope with the stress such as self-medication using intoxicants.

Notably, the symptoms of aging and PTSD are intertwined, and understanding how they interact with each other can help individuals reach out to seek professional help at the right time. Older individuals often experience different PTSD symptoms than younger people, which include sleep or memory problems and lower rates of depression or guilt. Therefore, the odds of misinterpreting PTSD symptoms as normal signs of aging in older adults are higher at all times.

Such miscalculations often make identifying and treating PTSD more difficult in the aged. The most common PTSD symptoms that could be misread as a sign of aging include high blood pressure, inability to concentrate, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and high levels of irritation. Moreover, the VA reports that older adults are less likely to identify or report symptoms of PTSD, and even health care providers tend to give less importance to screening seniors for the disorder.

PTSD is a major cause of suicide in aging veterans

An individual exposed to trauma is vulnerable to PTSD. However, soldiers, marines, airmen and those on dangerous missions with higher odds of being exposed to life-threatening experiences are highly susceptible to PTSD. Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD are feeling upset by things that remind one of past painful events, having repeated nightmares and experiencing vivid memories or flashbacks of the event that makes one feel like it’s happening all over again.

According to the VA data, in 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by committing suicide each day. The data also shows that about 65 percent of all veterans who committed suicide were aged 50 years or older, a figure that highlights the mental health crisis in the U.S. “PTSD affects only sissies,” is the common mindset that prevents many men in uniform from seeking help when they need it the most. Such attempts to live up to a macho image often has devastating consequences.

In the wake of increasing number of PTSD cases in America, June has been designated as the PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD to raise public awareness about the disease and its effective treatments and is observed every year to spread awareness about the disorder and its effects. The main objective of this month is to encourage individuals not to wait until they experience some sort of mental illness-related suffering when it doesn’t hurt to explore the possibility.

Way forward

PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop in any individual who has encountered a shocking, disturbing or traumatic event in his or her life, and could exacerbate if not intervened at the right juncture. It is advisable to address such a condition at the earliest so that it doesn’t snowball into something more complicated in the future. The right mental health care can mean a world of difference for people suffering from PTSD.

Sovereign Health Group is one of the leading mental health institutions in the U.S., which provides treatment for all kinds of mental health disorders as well as any underlying condition. Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized treatment options suited to treat the person holistically. Our residential mental health treatment facilities in California are among the best in the nation. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know about our effective recovery programs to treat mental illnesses at the earliest.


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