Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey. (Source: YouTube)
Music sensation Lady Gaga, in an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, said that she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The interview was part of Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour. Gaga opened up on how she developed PTSD after being sexually assaulted repeatedly at the age of 19. More so because she did not have a doctor or therapist to help her process the trauma, she said.
"I all of a sudden became a star and was traveling the world going from hotel room to garage to limo to stage, and I never dealt with it, and then all of a sudden I started to experience this incredible intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked the illness I felt after I was raped," the Shallow singer told Oprah.
Gaga resorted to self-harm. "I like to say I used to cut as opposed to saying I am a cutter. I also used to throw myself against the wall. I used to do some horrible things to myself when I was in pain," she revealed to her.
As a victim of mental health issues, Gaga is well aware of the prejudices around it. "Mental health is a medical condition, it should be treated as a medical condition. It should not be ignored." she said during the interview. She suggested that schools should start mental health classes and added, "I want there to be someone in every school that someone can go to if they're in need of help, or that someone can go to if they see that someone else needs help. At the same time, it [should be] a requirement in every school that you learn about the importance of kindness, about triggers, and you learn about depression."
PTSD and its symptoms
We spoke to Dr Kedar Tilwe, psychiatrist and sexologist, Hiranandani Hospital, to know more about PTSD and its symptoms. "PTSD refers to a set of responses that happen after a person is exposed to a situation or trauma which would cause stress to anybody. Earlier, it was thought to be a reaction to what a person personally experiences like abuse or an extreme stimulus that causes a problem to everybody like a war or an earthquake. What experts have realised is that along with this, it is also possible to experience the symptoms of PTSD if a close one has suffered from it or you have been in some way related to the event," he said.
A person suffering from PTSD develops symptoms like extreme phobia to talk about the event or re-experiencing it through flashbacks. In some cases, the person would avoid cues that would remind him or her of the event. Along with that, there can be personality changes and negative thought patterns, the psychiatrist explained.
The chances of a person experiencing the symptoms of PTSD during their lifetime is about nine per cent, said the doctor. "With more awareness, however, the number of people diagnosed has increased and they are reaching out for help, which is a good thing," he said.
How the family can extend support
Counselling and developing a support system are the pillars of PTSD treatment, emphasised Dr Tilwe. Families need to be sensitised about the symptoms of PTSD. Instead of criticising the patient's behaviour, they should be able to support and enable a better coping mechanism like helping them deal with the flashbacks and negative thoughts.
Gaga's struggle with fibromyalgia
Gaga has also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, characterised by widespread muscle pain and tenderness accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Expressing how she was feeling, "head-to-toe pain" even during the chat, the musician added, "What's interesting about it is that I've found through neuropsych research and my relationship with my doctors that fibromyalgia can be treated through mental health therapy."
Talking about the relation between fibromyalgia and mental health, Dr Tilwe informed, "The stress produced by the mind is manifested in physical pain. So, a person might say they are fatigued instead of saying they are depressed. Fibromyalgia is fairly common, more common than anxiety."