Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as “A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.” I find the word, “difficulty” in this definition to be putting it rather lightly, as that barely touches the surface of just how traumatic it can be for those suffering.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely than men, and genes may contribute to some peoples’ likelihood of developing it. ANYONE can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual abuse, or other serious events.
Not everyone suffering from PTSD is the same. Not all are veterans. I feel we put a stigma of sorts on it that just isn’t right. Post-traumatic stress disorder is very serious and very real for those experiencing it — no matter what the cause. I feel it’s very important we spread awareness of risk factors, signs and symptoms, and treatment options for those who feel helpless or at a loss. I want to help people feel validated, heard, and understood.
First some signs and symptoms:
Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the incident, sometimes even up to years afterward. The course varies. Some people recover within 6 months, some it takes much longer, the condition becomes chronic in some, and others, sadly, don’t make it long enough to know the duration.
To be diagnosed, symptoms must include the following:
– At least one avoidant symptom
– At least one re-experiencing symptom
– At least two reactivity symptoms
– At least two cognition and mood symptoms
– Avoiding places or objects the trigger a memory of the event
– Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the event
– Frightening, often obtrusive thoughts
Arousal and Reactivity symptoms:
– Trouble sleeping
– Rage and/or angry outbursts
– Being easily startled
Cognition and mood symptoms;
– Trouble remembering features of the event (ex: what time it took place, what the surroundings were, etc.)
– Negative thoughts and mood
– Feelings like guilt and blame
It’s very normal to have some of these symptoms after any kind of dangerous event. Sometimes people have severe symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder. Symptoms lasting longer than a month that seriously affect one’s way of living, need to be addressed and taken seriously.
Even very young (6 and under) children are experiencing PTSD. Some signs:
– Forgetting or being unable to talk
– Being unusually clingy
– Acting out the scary event during playtime
* Older children and teens are more likely to show symptoms similar to those seen in adults.
Some risk factors for PTSD include:
– Getting hurt (This can be emotional as well as physical!)
– Being involved in dangerous situations or events
– Seeing another person harmed, or seeing a dead body
– Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
– Childhood trauma or abuse
– Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
– Having little or no support after the event
Some ways to reduce the risk of PTSD:
– Seeking out support — whether through groups or trusted friends and family
– Learning to understand one’s response to fear
– Having positive coping skills in the case of a bad event
- Exposure therapy. This helps people face and control their fear. It gradually exposes them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way. It uses imagining, writing, or visiting the place where the event happened. The therapist uses these tools to help people with PTSD cope with their feelings.
- Cognitive restructuring. This helps people make sense of the bad memories. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. They may feel guilt or shame about something that is not their fault. The therapist helps people with PTSD look at what happened in a realistic way.
- Medication is sometimes needed.
The most important point of this post is to bring awareness to others — to make it known that you are NOT alone and you should never be made to feel like you need to validate yourself, no matter the cause of your or a loved one’s PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress is serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is suffering and feel like there’s no way out — please, please seek help. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak; in fact, it makes you stronger than yet to be realized.
I recommend, if you have a loved one experiencing any of the above symptoms to read this article: Helping Someone with PTSD.
With June being PTSD awareness month, please spread the word and open awareness to the topic. No one should ever feel bad about being who they are and about what they’ve gone through.
Let’s all support one another!!