We know Sarah Palin as the former Governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate — but her status in politics isn’t the only reason she’s made headlines. Her daughter, Bristol, was the center of controversy during McCain’s campaign due to her pregnancy at just 17 years old. And her son, Track, has also garnered some unwanted attention due to involvement with the police.
It seems the Palin family is making news headlines once more with Track’s recent violence. And Sarah herself provides insights into what may be behind his behavior including a possible mental health disorder (see page 5). We’ll also take a quick look at what most people don’t know about the mental health disorder (see page 8).
1. Track Palin attacked his father — and Sarah called the police
In the Palin family’s most recent scandal, 28-year-old Track attacked his father, Todd. NBC News reports the fight began when Track wanted to take a truck from his father’s home, and Todd rejected the request. Track then broke a window to his father’s home and began striking Todd in the face. Todd broke free with quite a few injuries to his head, and Sarah called the police.
No serious injuries resulted from the incident, but Track was charged with assault in the fourth degree, felony burglary, and criminal mischief for the hundreds of dollars in property damage.
Next: This isn’t the first time Track has been violent.
2. This isn’t the first time domestic violence has occurred
Track doesn’t have a shining record with the police. Newsweek explains in 2016, he was arrested on domestic violence charges for an incident involving his girlfriend. Allegedly, he hit his girlfriend in the head with a closed fist, striking right near her eye. The blow was enough to throw her to the ground, where he then began to kick her.
When police found Track’s girlfriend, she was tearfully hiding under a bed. And he also had a firearm while intoxicated, which was an additional charge.
Next: These two things may have increased the problem.
3. Medication and alcohol may have exasperated the problem
When Sarah called the police on her son, Anchorage Daily News reports that she said he was “freaking out and on some type of medication.” While we’re not certain whether Track was under the influence during the time of the assault, drugs and alcohol can certainly make domestic violence matters worse.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains abuse situations are all about power and control. While some may think Track would not commit his crimes if he was sober, medications and alcohol aren’t a recipe for abuse on their own. The influence of drugs and alcohol typically makes an abusive situation much more severe, but the underlying mental health issue also needs to be there.
Next: His outbursts could have been much worse.
4. Track’s outbursts could have been a lot worse due to the presence of a firearm
During Track’s episode with his father, Todd Palin told the police he had his pistol out and ready in the event he would need to protect his family from his son. And during Track’s outburst with his girlfriend, the young Palin threatened to commit suicide with a semi-automatic rifle.
Everytown for Gun Safety says the presence of a gun during a domestic violence episode makes it five times more likely for the attacked person to be killed, especially if abused person is a woman. To make matters even more terrifying, 50 American women are shot to death by their partners on average each month. And it’s also common for those who abuse to use weaponry to threaten and control others.
Next: Is this really the top reason behind Track’s violence?
5. The 1 reason behind Track’s violence? PTSD
Sarah Palin says it’s her son’s post-traumatic stress disorder that has made him this violent. Track served in Iraq as an air guard while Sarah was deeply involved in McCain’s 2008 campaign. And According to Salon, Sarah said “they come back a bit different, they come back hardened” in regards to her son’s return from war.
“I can certainly relate to other families who feel these ramifications of PTSD,” she continues. And in 2015, Sarah spoke out about mental health issues amongst veterans during a Conservative Political Action Conference.
Next: There is conflicting evidence surrounding violence and PTSD.
6. Are combat veterans more prone to violence after war?
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding returning veterans and PTSD — and there’s also a lot of conflicting evidence regarding whether PTSD and violence are linked. NPR notes Dr. Casey Taft says vets with PTSD are three times more likely to be violent and respond with aggression.
On the other hand, it’s important to note most veterans who’ve been given a PTSD diagnosis are not violent. And for those who are, they typically commit domestic crimes and not larger crimes affecting the public. And Dr. Sandro Galea also notes there’s no link between mental illness and gun violence — but stigmas surrounding mental health make it harder for those who need it to receive treatment.
Next: Trump sparks a national debate.
7. Trumps comments about PTSD sparked national debate
Veterans need more assistance than they’re currently given when they return from war — especially when it comes to dealing with PTSD. USA Today reports Trump said “the whole mental health issue” was going to be very important to address during his presidency. But during a speech regarding his plans to curb veteran suicide rates, he also portrayed war vets with PTSD as people who just “can’t handle” what they’ve seen.
His supporters believe what he said was taken out of context. And even Joe Biden said he didn’t think Trump meant any harm. But even so, Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said leaders need to discuss PTSD in a way that is “responsible and precise” because of how delicate of an issue it is.
Next: Here’s what you didn’t know about PTSD.
Symptoms can appear years later
The symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but in order to be diagnosed with the disorder, these symptoms need to be consistently occurring for at least a month. While some people will experience flashbacks of the trauma and depression as soon as the event ends, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says PTSD symptoms can take months or even years to show up for others. Those who take longer to develop symptoms may even think something else is wrong with them because the trauma didn’t affect them immediately. Because no two brains are alike, it’s tough to say when exactly symptoms are likely to hit.
Some with PTSD will have flashbacks and nightmares about the event, and some will feel emotionally numb and disengaged. Sleeplessness, feeling jumpy, and difficulty concentrating are also common.
Next: Women are more likely to develop it.
Women are more likely to develop it
Because this disorder is often associated with vets, most people don’t realize women actually experience PTSD more frequently than men. A review published by the American Psychological Association found men typically experience more traumatic events than women, but women are more likely to develop PTSD. The authors concluded sexual trauma may actually cause more post-traumatic stress than any other type of trauma, including war.
It’s also possible women were diagnosed with PTSD more frequently because they generally have a more emotional response to trauma. Men are more likely to develop substance abuse problems or violent behaviors, which don’t necessarily fit the current criteria for the disorder.
Next: You can’t just ‘get over it.’
It’s not something someone can just ‘get over’
Most people with a mental disorder have come across a loved one or friend telling them to just shake it off and move on, but like depression or anxiety, PTSD is not something you can’t simply shove to the side. A good therapist can make a world of difference when family and friends can’t seem to help. Psych Central says finding a connection and mutual trust with a therapist is incredibly important when dealing with any mental disorder — it can make or break your counseling experience.
Next: It may not be as obvious as you think.
Symptoms are not always obvious
While some symptoms are clear-cut, others are not obvious to the person experiencing them or to the loved ones around them. This can become an even bigger issue if the PTSD symptoms don’t appear until years after the traumatic event occurs.
Mayo Clinic explains PTSD can look a lot like depression for some, and this could lead to an improper diagnosis. Others may experience avoidance — they refuse to think or talk about the trauma as a way to try to block it from their memory. Unfortunately, avoiding the event in conversation can lead those closest to the person with PTSD to believe the bad memories are finally being dealt with.
Next: This might be enough to help you recover.
Therapy can be enough to recover
There are multiple options for PTSD patients that are proven to work. While some people may do best when on medication, others may get more out of therapy — in fact, therapy alone can be enough for some.
The Trauma Center explains the different types of treatment available for those who don’t want medication. Psychotherapy involves talking to a licensed mental health counselor or social worker, and this can either be done alone or in a group setting. Group therapy may be preferable for some, as it provides a supportive environment without the isolation of traditional therapy. There’s also behavioral therapy, which teaches the person with PTSD how to change their thoughts about the traumatic event so it doesn’t carry as much emotional weight.
Next: Not all flashbacks are the same.
There are different types of flashbacks
Some people with PTSD experience flashbacks very vividly. After one sight or sound, their brain brings them right back to where the traumatic event occurred, causing them to relive the scary moment. Others with PTSD never experience this phenomenon, and though they have other symptoms, they may just assume they’ve never had flashbacks.
Psychology Today explains these life-like moments of reliving the event are called explicit flashbacks. Here, the person literally feels as if they’ve been transported back to where and when the trauma occurred. Implicit flashbacks occur when the person is overcome with the negative feelings associated with the flashback, but they don’t literally feel as if they’ve transcended time. Some people may even have implicit flashbacks from their childhood, and they may not realize they’re flashbacks if they can’t remember the event — they may just think they feel suddenly overwhelmed and anxious for no particular reason.
Next: Exercise is helpful.
Exercise is helpful
Everyone can benefit from daily exercise, but those with PTSD might benefit most of all. Exercise has known benefits for those who are stressed or depressed, and studies are showing exercise may be just as beneficial as traditional therapy. Jasper Smits, a licensed psychologist, tells The Guardian he found PTSD patients who exercised three times a week for two weeks reaped the same benefits as those who attended 12 therapy weekly therapy sessions. More studies need to be done to prove whether or not exercise is just as good as therapy, but results look promising. At the very least, PTSD patients can greatly benefit from a combination of both.
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