WHAT IS POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?
Our focus this month is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, in honor of Murph and Memorial Day. The disorder is often associated with veterans but can ultimately affect anyone. Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have lost their lives battling to protect our country. The statistics also include those who lost their battle with PTSD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as, “a mental health issue that can develop after a distressing event.” These events can include, fires, natural disasters, and physical/sexual abuse. Stressful events can affect someone battling with PTSD in different ways. They may experience trouble sleeping, eating, or doing things they once enjoyed. These symptoms can last longer than a few months and begin to interfere with their daily life.
TRAUMA AND SYMPTOMS
While there is no clear way to predict the onset of PTSD, there may be indicators where it is more likely. Certain types of trauma can be contributing factors to increase your likelihood of developing PTSD. Other issues include serious bodily injury, lack of support from loved ones, and a history of anxiety or depression prior to the event. While at least half of the people in the United States have experienced trauma, only 10% of men and 20% of women develop PTSD. Women tend to experience neglect and abuse during childhood more often than men. Women are also more likely to be sexually assaulted which can increase their chances of developing the disorder. While symptoms can vary, everyone with PTSD experience one or more of the most common symptoms. These symptoms include, avoidance, anxiety, negative thoughts and feelings, and reliving the event. PTSD can also lead to more serious issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, problems at work, and thoughts of harming others.
PTSD can be a hard battle to fight, but there is treatment available. One resource is trauma-focused therapy, which examines the event and the meaning behind it. There are multiple forms of this therapy. The first is, cognitive processing therapy, which identifies the negative thoughts and beliefs about the traumatic event and works to change them. Another form is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This type of therapy has the patient focus on certain sounds or movements, introduced by the therapist, while thinking about the traumatic event. The goal of this form of therapy is to make the event less upsetting over time. The third form of therapy is prolonged exposure therapy, which encourages the person to face thoughts, feelings, and situations they have been avoiding. This may include discussing the trauma repeatedly. While therapy can be an effective treatment, it is not the only method. People battling with PTSD can seek out medication that can help manage their stress and emotions. These are most known as anti-depressants which increase the amount of serotonin in a person’s brain.
While traumatic events may not always be preventable, there are ways to try and prevent the onset of PTSD. These tools may include asking for help, discussing positive meaning behind the trauma, focusing on positive emotions and laughter, and thinking of yourself as a survivor instead of a victim. While many people associate PTSD with soldiers coming home from war, it is important to remember that anyone can find themselves in a battle with it. If you know someone who has been through a traumatic event, be sure to let them know that they do not have to fight in silence. Giving them a voice to discuss the event and explain how it affected them can aid in preventing PTSD from appearing. If you believe you are battling PTSD and need someone to talk to, there are many resources available. Below is a list of free hotlines available for anyone who may need them.
RESOLVE Hotline: 888-796-8226
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
National Hopeline Network: 800-422-4673
PTSD Foundation of America Veteran Line: 877-717-7873
Lifeline for Vets: 888-777-4443