PTSD Awareness Month 2020

The goal of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month is to encourage the public to be aware of the symptoms and causes of PTSD, as well as advance the discussion about the need for better diagnosis, treatment, and care for those suffering from the effects of trauma.

Learn more about PTSD, what we’re doing to improve its diagnosis and treatment, and what resources are available for those suffering from PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Following a traumatic event, most people will experience transient symptoms such as having upsetting memories, feeling on edge, or having trouble sleeping that may disrupt their daily activities. These short-term symptoms are known as post-traumatic stress (PTS) and typically occur within the first three months following the trauma. However, when the symptoms of PTS persist for longer than a few months, you may have PTSD. PTSD is a clinically diagnosed neuropsychiatric condition that occurs in about 20% of all individuals who experience or witness trauma.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

Currently, the diagnosis of PTSD is based on structured interviews and questionnaires that are administered by a clinician. No definitive diagnostic tests have been developed for PTSD. Studies have shown that genetics influence a person’s risk of developing PTSD after trauma. Learn more about how a landmark global collaboration of more than 80,000 biosamples identified three possible genetic loci or chromosomal points involved in PTSD.

What treatments are available for PTSD?

There have been no new FDA-approved therapeutics for PTSD in 18 years.

We’re working to fix this problem through robust and rigorous research that will help us better understand the biological underpinnings of PTSD and, in doing this, help us discover more effective solutions for the condition.

The challenge is that PTSD is a complex condition with different symptoms in different people. We need to gain a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of this diversity, or heterogeneity. This means understanding the brain circuits and molecular pathways causing symptoms so that we can better diagnose individuals and develop targeted and more effective treatments.

Although psychotherapeutic (‘s√Ñ√≤talk therapy”) and pharmacological interventions can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms, there remains considerable room for improvement. Only two pharmacological therapeutics, sertraline and paroxetine, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PTSD. Response to these selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors rarely exceeds 60%, and only 20% to 30% of patients achieve complete remission of symptoms.

Learn more about current available treatments for PTSD: PTSD Treatment Basics from the National Center for PTSD

What are we doing to address the opportunities for improvement in diagnosing and treating PTSD?

CVB is working to identify the biological mechanisms underlying PTSD and developing treatment and prevention strategies to improve quality of life. The availability of validated biomarkers or companion diagnostics would allow clinicians to predict the likelihood that a given patient would respond to a given therapeutic, enabling personalized medicine for these conditions.

CVB has set an aggressive roadmap to ensure precision diagnosis and targeted therapeutics are a focus of national efforts and milestone-driven research. Efforts to improve research through a better understanding of genomics, sleep, biomarkers, imaging and innovative approaches to clinical trials are ongoing.

How is our approach to PTSD research different?

Our approach is to build enabling platforms with strategic partners and to adopt a team science approach to fast-track brain health solutions in years, not decades.

An evidence-based, data-driven approach to research is essential to understanding PTSD.

Learn more about our research that is already making a difference:

Discovering the biological underpinnings of PTSD
A landmark study with the Broad Institute has so far discovered six genetic markers for PTSD risk. These results represent an important step in a global initiative to accelerate the discovery of genetic markers that could help guide the development of treatments and diagnostics for people living with PTSD. Learn more about the Global PTSD Genetics Consortium.

Advancing personalized medicine for PTSD
The Biomarker Establishment for Superior Treatment (BEST) PTSD study used electroencephalography (EEG) to identify clinical biomarkers and brain activity patterns or neural signatures in PTSD, which provided objective evidence for predicting a patient’s response to treatment. This brain biomarker will be the first of its kind for PTSD and may help accelerate the pace of discovery of effective treatments, leading researchers to a path for personalized medicine approaches and matching patients with the best interventions more quickly. Learn more about the Biomarker Establishment for Superior Treatment (BEST) PTSD study.

Improving sleep for those living with PTSD
Sleep disruptions such as nightmares, insomnia, and apnea can be the most burdensome aspects of living with PTSD. To improve sleep, researchers must measure it. Our SleepWell program is advancing a precision medicine approach to improving sleep after brain trauma. Sleepwell’s tailored focus on data analysis and development of disease-related algorithms from behavioral, cognitive, physiological and contextual data can be used to quantify brain health, improving clinicians’ ability to diagnose a wide variety of brain disorders and understand a patient’s unique experiences and tailor treatment accordingly. Learn more about our SleepWell program.

PTSD Resources

For Immediate Assistance

Services and Tools

Resources for Caregivers

Further Reading

The Coronavirus Pandemic and PTSD

From losing loved ones or recovering from serious illness to the everyday stresses of a changed life, everyone’s COVID-19 experience is different, and some may be more traumatic than others. Healthcare professionals and other essential workers, in this unprecedented time, are risking their own health to provide essential care and services while experiencing the trauma of death almost daily. This pandemic may also have a profound effect on people with pre-existing mental health conditions, including many of our nation’s Veterans, as heightened stress and isolation may disrupt their normal support channels and routines.

Additional COVID-19 Mental Health Resources

Resources for Veterans:

Resources for those living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or mental illnesses:

Resources for healthcare workers, first responders and caregivers:

For those experiencing loss and grief:

Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity research organization and does not offer medical advice. CVB encourages you to seek medical advice from a physician or healthcare provider if you have questions regarding a medical condition, or to call 911 or go to the nearest hospital if you find that you or someone you are concerned about is in an emergency situation.

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Genome-wide association analyses identify 95 risk loci and provide insights into the neurobiology of post-traumatic stress disorder

New meta-analysis builds upon PTSD genetics research, providing a foundation for the development of precision therapies

Driving Progress: TBI Action Alliance Launches Multi-Pronged Initiative to Speed Development of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Solutions for Traumatic Brain Injury

About Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB)

Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a non-profit 501(c)(3) biomedical research and technology organization dedicated to advancing brain health by fast-tracking precision diagnostics and tailored therapeutics.