Medical researchers may have made a breakthrough in PTSD. While not a treatment protocol, researchers have identified genetic markers associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with those regulating an immune system response.

The research could lead to the ability to identify individuals at risk for developing PTSD. A mental health condition, PTSD usually occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. This can take place on a battlefield or other traumatic events. Symptoms include recurring memories, sleep problems, suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety.

Experts estimate 6.8 percent of Americans will develop the condition at some point in their lives. The study followed a group of 188 Marines before and after deployments to combat zones. Blood samples were gathered before their deployments, and after the Marines returned home.

Researchers found groups of genes that regulate the immune system and interferon signaling (the release of proteins in response to pathogens), and linked both to PTSD. Other studies have looked at genetic markers and PTSD before, but this study used whole transcriptome RNA sequencing on Marines with and without PTSD.

“By comparing US Marines who develop PTSD symptoms to those who do not, we can measure differences in genes, but also take into consideration the dynamic relationships between and among them, their connectivity,” said senior author Michael S. Breen, of the University of Southampton in the UK.

“Because PTSD is thought to be such a complex disorder,” he added, “measuring these dynamic relationships is crucial to better understanding the PTSD pathology.”

While identifying both immune system and interferon signaling groups, the research raised a new question in PTSD patients. What causes the triggering of interferon signaling prior to PTSD?

“The answer could be any number of factors,” said principal investigator Dr. Dewleen G. Baker, of the Veteran Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California-San Diego, “ranging from a simple explanation of increased anticipatory stress prior to deployment or more complex scenarios where individuals may have a higher viral load. It’s a question for future studies.”

The study is in the latest issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

Help With PTSD

One of the biggest obstacles to treating PTSD is the patient. Someone with PTSD is highly reluctant to seek out help or support. Reasons vary from being afraid of losing control, not wanting to be a burden and fear others will judge or pity them.

Families and loved ones of PTSD sufferers should be patient. The recovery is a process that takes time. Another tip is to not pressure your loved one into talking. Just let the person know you ready to listen if and when they want to talk.

There are a variety of support groups for those suffering with PTSD.

First and foremost – the National Suicide Hotline. If you you know someone that wants to hurt themselves or are having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The SIDRAN Institute. A nonprofit that offers a referral list of PTSD therapists.

For veterans, there is the Veteran Criss Line. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1).

The VA has a guide to all the mental health services the system offers. It’s a PDF, but a comprehensive list of all the treatment options a veteran has.

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