June is PTSD Awareness Month. While it is commonly associated with veterans who have seen active combat, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) can affect anyone.
Combat, traumatic child loss (including stillbirth and pregnancy loss), witnessing or being involved in a fatal accident, sexual abuse, and many other events can cause PTSD.
According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs (US statistics):
About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%). Learn more about women, trauma and PTSD.
The statistics for veterans are double, some almost triple depending on their tour of service. This is heartbreaking.
How do you know if you suffer from PTSD?
There are four major types of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal, and negative changes in beliefs and feelings. If you suffer from these symptoms for a period of longer than a couple of months, please consult a therapist for an evaluation.
Re-experiencing: The traumatic event is re-lived in the form of recollections, flashbacks, or nightmares. These experiences can be very difficult to distinguish between the past and the present.
Avoidance: The conscious or unconscious avoidance of people, places, or things associated with the trauma. Many times this is the location of the accident, but it can also be places you spent time with a particular person or even their belongings.
Arousal: This can manifest in several ways. Irritability and anger are common, as is the constant state of alert or feeling of danger. Insomnia, jumpiness, and sensory issues are all part of this as well.
Negative Changes in Beliefs and Feelings: The way you feel and think about yourself and others has changed. This encompasses many things including changes in religious beliefs, changes in feelings about others (inability to make or keep relationships), and even the inability to recall events related to the trauma.
What Related Problems can come from PTSD?
Anger is a common response to Trauma. When faced with a threat, people often respond in defense and, in turn, anger. There will also be anger due to the unfairness of the traumatic event.
Depression is also very common with PTSD. Many times the traumatic event includes a loss, which is followed by grief. Grief for long periods can result in depression.
Sleep Problems, like insomnia or nightmares, often occur with PTSD. There can be trouble falling asleep due to flashbacks, or staying asleep because of nightmares about the traumatic event.
Substance Abuse is more likely to occur with PTSD sufferers. Both alcohol and drugs offer an escape from the extreme emotions associated with PTSD, and are often used to self-medicate. This can lead to dependence or even overdose. You can read more about PTSD and Addiction here.
Suicide is the most severe relationship with PTSD. It can seem that the only way to escape the pain, fear, and grief is to end your life, but it only transfers that pain to your loved ones. For Immediate Help, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7.
What Treatments are Available?
There are two types of treatment available for PTSD. The first is Psychotherapy (counseling or talk therapy). The second is medication.
Psychotherapy for PTSD
Psychotherapy involves working with a mental health professional to find the appropriate treatment. Therapists use techniques like Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). By working closely with a therapist, there can be a drastic decrease or even disappearance of PTSD symptoms.
Medication for PTSD
Due to the similarities in physical affects of PTSD, anxiety and depression medications are often prescribed to people suffering from PTSD. Typically, these are prescribed together with psychotherapy.
If you or someone you know may be suffering from PTSD, please ask for help. You are not alone. The Department of Veteran Affairs has incredible information and resources.
Please share this post to educate others about PTSD. Someone you love many need this.