June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. Although PTSD has been brought to the nation’s attention by the staggering number of war veterans who return home with it, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn’t just occur in veterans. An estimated 7.7 million Americans have PTSD. One in 10 women will develop PTSD in her lifetime, and 50% of those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder don’t seek treatment.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying event that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. PTSD occurs when the something harmful happened to the individual, harm comes to a loved one or the individual witnesses a harmful event
When you’re in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. When you’re afraid, your fear triggers your “fight-or-flight” response, which is a healthy reaction to protect you from harm. In PTSD, this reaction is altered or damaged. Those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may feel stressed or afraid when they’re no longer in danger.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was first brought to the attention of the public in relation to war veterans, but PTSD can occur from a variety of traumatic events like:
- Being kidnapped/held hostage
- Child abuse
- Car accidents
- Train wrecks
- Plane crashes
- Natural Disasters
What are the signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD can cause a variety of symptoms. These symptoms can affect the mind, body, and emotions. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can include:
- Recurrent and unwanted distressing memories of the event
- Reliving the traumatic event (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams about the event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reaction
- Negative feeling about yourself or other people
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the event
- Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior
- Always being on guard for danger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
Children and teens may react differently to Post-Traumatic Stress than adults do. In very young children, these symptoms can include:
- Bedwetting, after they’ve already learned how to use the toilet
- Forgetting how or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
When should you seek help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Not every person who has been traumatized develops PTSD. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder usually occur within three months of the traumatic incident, but symptoms of PTSD can also occur years afterward. When those symptoms last for more than one month, it is usually considered PTSD.
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about an event for more than a month, especially if those thoughts are severe, or if you feel you are having trouble getting your life under control after a traumatic event, it’s important to seek the attention of a medical professional.
How to protect yourself if you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Wearing a medical ID is an important step to protecting yourself when you have PTSD. In the event you are unsure of your surroundings or are unable to speak for yourself, your medical ID can advocate for you when first responders arrive.
Attending counseling sessions is a great way to explore your feelings and thoughts about a traumatic situation in a safe environment. Working through your feelings with a medical professional can help you cope with how you feel when you have PTSD.