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PTSD Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Posted 06-22-2018

The month of June is designated as National PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 8 percent of the general population, which accounts for more than 24 million people. In addition, 70 percent of adults will suffer from a traumatic experience that could trigger PTSD in their lifetime, according to PTSD United. Make it your goal for June to better understand the symptoms and treatment options for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you experience a traumatic life event, it can generate a great deal of mental, physical and emotional turmoil. You may be unable to process or react in a positive manner to what took place. Some victims try to avoid thinking about such an experience, while others struggle to think about anything else. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), types of traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:

  • Car accident
  • Death of a loved one
  • Military history
  • Victim of an assault
  • Sexual, emotional or physical abuse victim
  • Victim of a robbery
  • Witness to a violent crime
  • War victim
  • Chronic neglect
  • Witness to domestic or community violence
  • Victim of school violence including bullying
  • Victim of a natural disaster
  • Victim of traumatic grief, separation or retraumatization

Please note that not everyone who is the victim of one of these types of events will develop PTSD. However, these are the kinds of incidents that are most commonly associated with the condition. 

Symptoms of PTSD

As a result of these reactions to the memories of the event, you may suffer from increased anxiety, nervousness or an inability to sleep. You may also suffer from nightmares, night terrors or flashbacks. These are all symptoms of PTSD, and you may start experiencing these symptoms directly after an event or several years later. Here are some additional symptoms that you may experience when suffering from PTSD:

  • Heightened reaction, i.e., a flight or fight response, to normal activities or events you connect to the traumatic event, which is also known as hypervigilance
  • Anxiety, nervousness and shaking without any other cause
  • Uncontrollable fear
  • Depression or depressed mood
  • Self-destructive or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Easily agitated or annoyed, irritable
  • Hostile attitude
  • Lack of trust
  • Feelings of uncontrollable guilt, i.e., survivor’s guilt
  • Emotionally detached
  • Insomnia or sleep disorders

There is no cookie-cutter diagnosis that states if you have certain symptoms you are diagnosed with PTSD. It is important to see a professional to get a proper diagnosis.

Getting Help  

Fortunately, PTSD is a treatable mental health condition. If you have been the victim of a traumatic event and are having trouble coping, begin by speaking with a mental health professional. They will be able to diagnose you properly to determine if you indeed are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist can identify where you are in the stages of PTSD. This is the first step to getting the treatment you may need.

Treatments for PTSD

Treatment options vary and can include one-on-one counseling, family counseling, group therapy and medications. For counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as talk therapy, is beneficial for reducing psychological distress. This can help you work through negative thoughts and emotions associated with the traumatic experience. Another type of therapy used to treat PTSD is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. By working with your eye movements, a mental health professional can help you reduce stress related to the traumatic experience.

As for medication, this can be useful as a tool or aid in conjunction with CBT or eye movement therapy. A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is a common medication used to treat anxiety and depressed mood among PTSD sufferers. You may also need medication to aid with sleeping if you are suffering from insomnia or night terrors. The ideal situation is to use these types of medications for the short term until you are able to process the trauma effectively. 

Helping Someone With PTSD

If you know someone who may have PTSD, you can make a difference in that person's life. However, you want to use caution and avoid triggering their condition. The best approach is to start by finding a therapist who treats PTSD. A psychologist or support group provides a safe and productive space for PTSD victims to begin the recovery process. Here at PORT Health Services, we offer extensive mental health treatment for youth and adults. We have more than a dozen locations throughout North Carolina to best serve your needs. You can visit any one of our offices to speak with a health professional.