Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an illness that can affect thousands of Americans. According to the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), there are approximately 7.8% of adults in the United States who experience this illness. However, women (10.4%) tend to be diagnosed with PTSD about twice as often as men (5%).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops as a result of experiencing trauma. A person needs to be demonstrating symptoms for at least three months in order to be diagnosed. The reason for this is that some trauma can heal on its own. However, when a person is still facing psychological symptoms after three months, then the trauma may still be having its effect. And in these cases, a person may need to get professional help.
Many people are familiar with PTSD when seen in soldiers who were in combat. Historically, PTSD was known in soldiers as shell shock. However, it’s clear that PTSD is an illness that anyone can develop after an experience that threatens one’s life. Someone might develop PTSD after experiencing any one of the following events:
- death of a loved one
- witnessing a crime
- death or suicide of a close friend
- domestic violence
- natural disaster
- witnessing violence
- chronic bullying
- repeated abandonment
- physical or sexual abuse
PTSD may include a variety of symptoms, mostly having to do with anxiety and fear. Here is a list of symptoms that those with PTSD may experience:
- flashbacks or recurring images of the trauma
- bad dreams
- frightening thoughts
- avoidance of people and places that remind them of the trauma
- overwhelming feelings of dread or fear
- feeling numb, detached, or emotionally unresponsive
- amnesia of parts or all of the traumatic event
- de-realization – the environment seems strange or unreal
- de-personalization – thoughts and feelings don’t seem real
- feelings of reliving the traumatic event
- feeling high levels of stress when an object or person is a reminder of the trauma
- trouble sleeping
- chronic tension
- easily startled
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to sit still
- chronic substance use as a way to avoid overwhelming feelings
The above symptoms describe the pain of PTSD. It can be an incredibly uncomfortable illness and can get in the way of living a happy and fulfilling life.
However, there are ways to get help which can make life easier and more manageable. For instance, various types of therapy can assist with this. A significant part of healing from PTSD is exploring the feelings associated with trauma and learning how to appropriately face them without becoming overwhelmed. However, it is important to remember that this requires the skill of a therapist.
Attempting to do this on your own may bring up feelings that are too difficult to face. With a safe, therapeutic investigation of the traumatic event and when a person is able to process and integrate the intense feelings associated with the trauma, symptoms of PTSD might eventually go away. Remember that this may take time, tenderness, and the careful facilitation of a therapist.