New research into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is leading to a better understanding of its underlying neurobiology, risk factors and long-term implications. The findings are published in a recent issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and were revealed at a conference jointly sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Researchers are studying a number of previously unexplored topics, including an examination of trauma within hours of the event, the thought processes that keep sufferers focused on the trauma and possibilities for prevention and therapy. New and promising research is engaged with mapping the neural circuitry involved in response to danger and with investigations of the complex genetics of individual risk.
Although the NIMH was created 60 years ago partly in response to an increased awareness of the psychological consequences of war, little PTSD research had been done before the Vietnam War. Since that time, PTSD has been found in veterans dating back to World War II. Although PTSD appears at a high rate among veterans, the condition is also seen in the civilian population: the events of 9/11 have increased the urgency of finding answers.
A study of the general population found that PTSD affects 5% of men and 10% of women. Studies also show a greater likelihood of PTSD development in the children of trauma survivors, including data on babies born to women who were pregnant and escaped from the World Trade Center on September 11 suggesting in utero and other developmental effects.
PTSD is a psychiatric illness that can occur after experiencing life-threatening or life-changing events and involves reliving the experience through flashbacks. The condition is frequently complicated by depression, substance abuse, memory problems and problems with physical health