June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month
PTSD currently affects nearly 8 million adults in any given year, and it can be a life threatening illness which greatly hampers quality of life. Pharmacies can help to raise awareness of the causes, treatments, and symptoms of PTSD during the month of June. Getting involved with a PTSD awareness campaign such as the Wounded Warrior Project or your community’s local VA is another way to increase literature available to customers who may feel uncomfortable asking their pharmacist if they are experiencing PTSD symptoms.
Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder include flashbacks, reliving the event, stress caused by triggers (smells, sights, or sounds that remind an individual of the trauma they experienced), and more. Often, those affected will avoid contact with their trigger, by avoiding relationships, events, or even particular genres of films. The way that an individual perceives others and the world around them while affected by PTSD is something that a pharmacist should take care to address in a professional manner. Having literature and contact information available for a local VA or group therapy meeting is important.
Continued exposure to a certain trigger is often the best therapy for those experiencing PTSD. Whether this be forming new relationships, going out in a crowd, or even living through an earthquake simulator–this alternative form of behavioral therapy has shown effective in many studies as highly effective in treating post traumatic stress disorder. Pharmacists should be aware of alternative treatments that do not include therapy, as many individuals find it hard to share their experiences, even with a therapist. Encouraging patients to seek therapy or consult their doctor if their symptoms are severely inhibiting their quality of life is still highly encouraged.
Managing symptoms of PTSD is easier than ever as technology continues to advance. The Department of Veterans Affairs has even developed an app that allows persons affected with PTSD to track their symptoms, handle trigger symptoms, and learn more about their illness straight from their smartphones.
Pharmacists are attempting to help patients control their avoidance of situations, flashbacks, and hyper-arousal through the use of medications that have been approved for the treatment of PTSD. These medications are normally SSRI’s, which act as stimulators for the serotonin receptors in the brain. These include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. Pharmacists should make themselves aware of these medications and their side effects, offering literature on their effectiveness in treating post traumatic stress disorder. There are many new drugs on the market for the treatment of PTSD, and these include Effexor, Serzone, and Remeron. These are also effective in treating Major Depressive Disorder, which often will accompany PTSD. Mood stabilizers are another medication that may be offered as a part of a patient’s treatment and management of their PTSD. Pharmacists should take care to address client’s possible concerns about becoming addicted to these medications, their possible side effects, and the possibility that many may see medication as a “crutch” rather than just getting better overnight.
Post traumatic stress disorder is a very serious problem, and pharmacies throughout the country should highlight awareness of it not only in June, but throughout the year. What has your pharmacy done to raise awareness within your community of this issue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.