Most people may not have been aware that June was actually National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness month. By recognizing PTSD this month, the hope is that people can become more aware and educated about what PTSD is and how we can all help those suffering from this disorder. Over the past year, PTSD has seen its fair share of cover stories, especially with the war in Afghanistan coming to an end. However, the reality is that many non-veterans also suffer from the crippling symptoms of PTSD. It is important for all of us to be aware of the variety of life events that can cause or contribute to PTSD and PTSD symptoms.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is considered a mental disorder by the DSM-V. It is characterized by debilitating symptoms that usually follow experiencing a trauma or witnessing a traumatic event. There is no one cause, but some examples include:
PTSD was first brought to the public’s attention in WWI and was originally called “Shell Shock”. Many returning soldiers had experienced unimaginable horrors of war and could never quite shake what had happened to them while in combat. Shell Shock was the term used to describe these soldiers’ distinct symptoms of chronic fear, anxiety, panic, inability to reason, sleep or sometimes even talk.
Many people that suffer from PTSD will continually (and unintentionally) relive their traumatic experience. This can happen in the form of nightmares and disturbing flashbacks during the day. Every day events that most would consider to be normal and mundane can become painful reminders of a person’s trauma and act as triggers for a panic attack or overwhelming anxiety. A flashback can cause the person to lose touch with reality and feel that they are actually reliving their traumatic event in the present moment.
The nightmares and flashbacks may dissipate for weeks or months at a time and then return out of nowhere. Individuals with PTSD may also suffer from severe sleep problems, depression, feeling isolated/detached and other distressing feelings. Anniversaries of the event can be particularly difficult and often coincide with a worsening of symptoms.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be treated. Treatment often focuses on relieving the chronic and often debilitating symptoms that come with this disorder. It is most effective to seek treatment under the guidance of a therapist or psychologist who specializes in the treatment of PTSD. Therapy provides one with the necessary space to begin processing the intense feelings and emotions tied to the trauma that one has experienced. Instead of continuing to avoid the trauma and any reminders of it, treatment will offer a safe place to explore the painful emotional and physical sensations tied to the original event. Treatment for PTSD not only helps restore one’s sense of control by providing one with the tools necessary to more effectively cope with the intrusive feelings and memories associated with the trauma, but it also can help restore hope for the future. By working through the trauma with a therapist, one can begin to truly live life again!
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