June is National PTSD Awareness Month but June 27th is national PTSD awareness day. Most everyone has heard of PTSD, Post-traumatic stress disorder, but what most people know about this mental illness they learned from the movies and TV.
Typically when you see PTSD portrayed in the movies or on a television show you’ll see a person, normally a man who saw combat during military service, who is unstable, paranoid, has delusions, a violent temper and who probably also has a substance abuse problem. Chances are that the character will also be homeless or nearly so.
As with many things we see on screen, there is an element of truth to that portrayal. The people who suffer with worst symptoms of PTSD the do fit that character type. These symptoms of the illness simply makes for better drama and storytelling. But most people who suffer from PTSD don’t suffer symptoms that are nearly as dramatic as pop culture portrays even if they are no less debilitating.
The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as: a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. While most of us would have a hard time processing a traumatic event, those who suffer from PTSD find that their symptoms do not get better but get worse over time and that there is a significant impact on how they are able to function in their day to day lives.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD include:
✅ Trouble sleeping
✅ Reliving the traumatic even
✅ Hopelessness about the future
✅ Loss of concentration
✅ Difficulty maintaining close relationships
✅ Being quick to anger
✅ Self destructive behaviors, including abusing drugs or alcohol
✅ Hearing or seeing things that are not there
✅ Being easily frightened
Like most other illnesses some people have a higher risk factor of suffering from PTSD than others. That includes people who have already gone through a traumatic event, those who do not have a good support structure like close friends and family who they can rely on, if there is a family history of mental illness or if someone already has a mental health problem. The type of event can also be a factor, if someone was involved as either a victim or a witness or if they believed their lives were at risk are at a higher risk. People who felt helpless to help themselves or a loved one or have an extreme reaction to the event, such as vomiting, shaking or crying, are also at a higher risk for PTSD. Of course these are not all of the many risk factors nor does not having any of these risk factors before or during the even mean someone won’t develop PTSD.
While PTSD is most closely associated with the military, anyone who suffers a traumatic event can develop it. Car wreaks, being the victim of violence and going through a natural disaster can all lead to PTSD. It is important to remember; however, that the persons perception of the event, the danger or severity of it, has a greater bearing on the level of risk of PTSD than the actual danger or risk of the event.
Treatment for PTSD can take on various forms but the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has found that a mixture of therapy and medication helps most suffers alleviate their symptoms or allows them to become symptom free. It is important for people seeking treatment or who are currently in treatment discuss the options with their health care provider because treatment goals and plans are individual to each patient.
If you, or someone you love, has gone through or goes through a traumatic event please reach out and make an appointment to
speak with a mental health professional, American Behavioral Clinics has qualified therapists and psychiatrists on staff who are able to help PTSD victims and their families cope with PTSD.
If you would like more information about PTSD please visit the Department of Veterans Affairs.