Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that affects some people after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. People who live with PTSD experience persistent disturbances in their thoughts, emotions, sensations, and habits that last long after the traumatic event.
In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, here’s a few things you might not know about this mental health condition:
- Veterans are not the only people who experience PTSD. Anyone can experience PTSD after living through a traumatic event. What’s a traumatic event? Physical or sexual assault, a natural disaster, or the unexpected death of a loved one are life threatening events, like combat, that can cause PTSD.
- PTSD affects about 3.5% of adult Americans, and one in eleven people will experience PTSD in their lifetime
- PTSD does not come only from direct contact with a traumatic event (i.e. being a target or witnessing). Those who learn of traumatic events indirectly can also be affected.
Because of the intense pressure and violence they’re exposed to, veterans are more likely to experience PTSD than other people. Victims of sexual abuse or physical assault are also likely to develop PTSD. PTSD affects emergency first-responders, and those who witness a crime, death, or the serious injury of someone else.
Did you know that there are factors that increase the likelihood that you or someone you love may experience PTSD? For the record, they’re generally outside of your control.
- Adverse childhood experiences
- A history of mood or anxiety disorders in the family
- Prolonged exposure to the traumatic event
- Psychological tendency to dissociate or panic
- Sustaining a physical injury during the event
There are four main symptoms associated with PTSD:
- Intrusive thoughts, that may include reliving the event, distressing memories and vivid, unexpected flashbacks.
- Avoidance: skirting around people, places, and things associated with the event, or a prolonged unwillingness to talk about the event or related feelings.
- Hyperarousal, shown through reckless or self-destructive behavior, high sensitivity to stimuli like sound and touch, or an inability to concentrate or sleep.
- Negative emotions and thoughts, like numbness, persistent shame or guilt, fear, a loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies and relationships, or distorted beliefs about the self or the world (i.e. “Nowhere is safe”).
Most people who live through trauma will experience the above symptoms in the days and weeks following the event.
So, what makes it PTSD?
PTSD is distinct in that those symptoms last for months and even years. As time goes on, they are more likely to impair a person’s ability to live healthfully.
The biggest barriers to a person recovering from PTSD often stem from false beliefs caused by the trauma itself, and stigmas about what mental health care is.
These are four misbeliefs that can keep a person from feeling better.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking one of these?
- I am weak if I seek treatment.
- I am to blame for the event, I could have done more to stop it, I don’t deserve to get better.
- I can’t trust anyone, no one can help me.
- Treatment won’t work, even if I do seek it.
Here’s a fact: PTSD is highly treatable. The sooner you or a loved one seeks help for PTSD, the better. There are many evidence-based therapies that PTSD has proven responsive to.
If you or a loved one are struggling to regain balance after an upsetting event, you might be feeling the effects of PTSD. If you’re unsure, it’s best to ask a health professional.
Remember: we can all use a little extra support from time to time.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it’s never too soon or too late to reach out for help. Call Horizon’s patient support specialists today at (716) 831-1800.