Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has an astounding affect on ones daily functioning. The misconception is that it only effects active soldiers and veterans. PTSD actually affects about 8% of Americans (about 27.4million people) which is the equivalent of the total population of Texas (ptsdunited.org). It can occur after experiencing a “traumatic” event. A traumatic event is defined by the eye of the beholder. One’s perception of danger regardless if they experience it first hand or witness the event can cause PTSD. For example, when we think about the tragic day of 9/11/01, it seems obvious that many people who experienced the event possibly struggles with PTSD. It may not seem as transparent that people who watched it on T.V could also struggle with PTSD. There are many types of trauma that may cause PTSD which include but not limited to: child sexual abuse, sexual assaults on men and women, intimate partner violence, car accidents, natural disasters, community violence, emotional abuse, physical abuse, children witnessing domestic violence, first responders, and men and women experiencing combat.
Symptoms are usually experienced directly after the event, interfere with daily functioning, and include but not limited to:
- Flashbacks – Reliving the event through bad memories or nightmares
- Avoidance – Avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of the event (Avoidance also means suppressing the event so you don’t think about it).
- Increase in negative beliefs and/or feelings – the way you think and feel about yourself and/or the world can be clouded with guilt, shame, or negativity (people are unsafe, the world is unsafe)
- Hyperarousal – Hypervigilant, struggle with concentrating, easily startled, and/or irritability
Other problems people with PTSD experience include but not limited to:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Drinking and drug problems
- Somatic Symptoms (physical symptoms)
- Relationship problems
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, and/or despair
Research has shown evidence base treatment depending on the individual decreases and/or could possibly eliminate some symptoms. Treatments that are most supportive for people who have PTSD:
- Talk Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence base model that is shown to decrease and at times eliminate symptoms of PTSD
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization ad Reprocessing: EMDR is also an evidence base practice that involves focusing on sounds, vibration, and/or hand movement while thinking about the trauma which also eliminates or decreases symptoms
- Medication: SSRIs and SNRIs are the most commonly used medicine (ptsd.va.gov).
Many people struggle with recognizing their trauma and how it is affecting them. Others tend to minimize their trauma because it’s “not as bad as” someone else’s experience. Remember…. trauma is in the eye of the beholder. If you perceive danger or to be unsafe, that’s enough to possibly develop PTSD. One trauma is not “better or worse” than someone else’s, trauma is trauma. The more we are able to acknowledge traumatic events, the faster we can learn, heal, and grow.