What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

A hand holds up a sparkler firework in front of an American flag

Haunted by nightmares — unable to shake memories of explosions, death, and visions of war — veterans can struggle with these images, even while awake. Many experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger; confused about how to make sense of what they have witnessed. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often makes it hard for soldiers to return to normal life.

Although people often associate PTSD with veterans affected by the horrors of war, the condition can develop in anyone who has experienced a dangerous, shocking, or life-threatening event such as rape, childhood abuse, or a serious accident. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD will affect 6.8% of U.S. adults in their lifetime. With gun violence on the rise in the United States, survivors of mass shootings and those who reside near a mass shooting might also experience these symptoms, as fireworks can often sound like a gunshot. Continue reading What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

man drinking bottle bar

Today, it’s widely accepted by major scientific associations that addiction is a medical illness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] and the American Psychiatric Association [APA] both define addiction as a “brain disease,” and the DSM-V lists criteria for classifying addiction as a mental health condition called “Substance Use Disorder.”

However, it wasn’t always this way. In the United States, there’s a long history of vilifying not only drugs and alcohol, but also the people who use them. Less than a century ago, addiction wasn’t seen as an illness outside of one’s control, but rather as a moral failing rooted in one’s personality.

In the 1930s, when scientists first began to study addiction, the prevailing view was that addicts were simply those too weak in willpower to say no. Because addiction wasn’t seen as an illness, there was no concept of treating it with rehabilitation centers and 12-step programs. Instead, heavy users of drugs and alcohol were seen as degenerates and criminals and were treated accordingly; they were imprisoned or institutionalized so as not to be a nuisance to society. Continue reading Is Addiction a Mental Illness?