PTSD Awareness Month: Common Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
Everyone goes through frightening experiences at some point or another. You may feel sad, anxious, terrified, or depressed by the ordeal for some time and then find the strength to move forward. This is the experience for most people. Others feel unable to cope with the event and find that they are seriously affected in their everyday lives for days, weeks, or months. When this occurs, the person may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although PTSD is a serious condition often stemming from invisible wounds, there is hope for coping with and treating it.
June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month; this PTSD Awareness Month, you can become more conscious of the disorder and learn how to spot it, as well as help to raise PTSD awareness in others. Over time, you can gain the tools you need to move on from the trauma you’ve gone through and help your loved ones do the same.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (sometimes spelled posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health disorder caused by a distressing situation, event, or experience. The American Psychiatric Association describes it as: “People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended.”
A person may witness the event or go through it themselves. Some people who experience trauma can cope and heal with time, especially with the assistance of a trained mental health professional. However, when someone cannot move past the event, or it becomes difficult to get through the day, they may have PTSD.
Who Experiences It?
In the past, PTSD was a condition experienced mostly by soldiers and other war veterans. Now, it’s clear that anyone can develop it at any age or life stage – not just veterans, but civilian survivors of traumatic events, as well. Genetics may make someone more likely to develop PTSD as well. According to the National Center for PTSD, 7 or 8 people out of every 100 will experience PTSD symptoms at some time during their life. The National Center for PTSD has also found that “about 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives.”
Not everyone who goes through a traumatic event or series of traumatic events will get PTSD because of it. The reality is that most people will be able to cope and move forward with time. Those who seek support from friends and family, see a therapist, and have positive coping strategies are more likely to recover faster.
What Causes It?
PTSD can be caused by a wide variety of events and experiences. Two people who go through the same situation can still react differently. Sometimes events occur that may result in one person developing PTSD, while the other does not. Some different potential causes of PTSD could include:
- Experiencing trauma
- A history of mental health conditions or substance use disorder
- Serious accidents
- Physical or sexual assault and rape
- Any kind of abuse, whether verbal, physical, sexual, or emotional
- Serious health issues
- Losing a baby in childbirth
- Going through natural disasters like a tornado or hurricane
- Exposure to combat or war
- Being threatened
- The loss of a loved one, especially in a traumatic or sudden manner
- Childhood trauma
- Any other traumatic events
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, reach out immediately to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
As previously stated, just because someone experiences one of the events above does not mean they will necessarily develop PTSD. However, these are some of the most common causes that can contribute to the development of the condition. If you experience a traumatic event or series of them, seek help right away to lower your risk of developing PTSD.
PTSD Awareness Month
June is PTSD Awareness Month. More specifically, June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day. Around 8 million people in the United States are currently living with this condition. Even though the PTSD treatments currently available can have promising results, many people still don’t seek the help they need. Some may not think that they have PTSD, thinking it something that only affects war veterans, while some may not feel as though they need help or are afraid to obtain help.
PTSD Awareness Month provides an ample opportunity to spread the word about the signs of PTSD and, more importantly, where to go if you or a loved one may have it. When more people know the treatment options that are available to them, they have a better chance of receiving support and care.
You can pledge to raise awareness, joining in with millions of other people with similar goals and commitments. If you feel you have PTSD, you might consider taking a self-screen test and then reaching out to a professional depending on the results.
Symptoms Of PTSD
PTSD symptoms can vary from person to person. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms are:
- Experiencing intrusive thoughts or upsetting memories
- Recurrent dreams of or relating to the event
- Intense reactions to triggers
- Having flashbacks of the event
- Feeling numb or detached
- Avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
- Trouble sleeping
- Persistent negative thoughts
- Eating too much or too little
- Feeling on-edge or anxious
- Negative thought processes
- Changes to one’s mood
- Reckless behavior
- Feeling guilty, shameful, or to blame
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Aggression or angry outbursts
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7. Additionally, the Veterans Crisis Line is a national helpline for veterans experiencing PTSD, and can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1 at the main menu).
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s vital to reach out to mental health professional. Only they can give you an accurate diagnosis and provide you with the best next steps. Having some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean someone has PTSD; they could have an entirely different disorder. Be careful not to diagnose yourself or someone else without speaking to a medical professional.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you may have PTSD if you’re still experiencing distressing feelings, thoughts, and/or memories related to a traumatic incident or series of incidents several months after they’ve occurred. However, to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, you must speak with a medical provider. They will perform a physical exam to rule out any potential health issues causing the symptoms. Then, they will do a psychological evaluation and ask you questions about your past and symptoms. They may want to know more about the specific event that could have caused your distress. Using the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), they will assess your symptoms and evaluate whether or not you meet the criteria for PTSD. In people over six years of age, these criteria include:
- Exposure to a threat like death, serious injury, or sexual violence. You must either directly experience or witness it.
- Development of intrusive symptoms after the event occurs. These could include flashbacks, memories, nightmares, and other psychological reactions.
- Avoidance of situations, people, or things that remind the person of the traumatic event.
- Negative cognitions and moods as a result of the event.
- Noticeable changes in behavior, arousal, or reactivity because of the experience.
- Symptoms persist for more than one month.
- The event causes clinically significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas of life.
- The symptoms are not the result of a medical condition or other disorder.
It may take some time before someone develops PTSD. In some cases, people develop the condition right after the traumatic experience, while for others symptoms may begin long after the traumatic event has ended. Since everyone will have a different timeline and experience, it’s important to involve professionals from the beginning.
Luckily, PTSD is a treatable condition. At the very least, those who develop it can learn new coping skills to live a happier, healthier life despite the disorder. Some common PTSD treatment options that have shown promise for millions of people are:
- Therapy: Connecting with a qualified mental health professional can make a huge difference in the life of someone with PTSD. Working alongside a therapist, you’ll be able to come up with new coping mechanisms, skills, and tools for living with and ultimately moving past PTSD. Sometimes specific therapies help the most. These include trauma-focused psychotherapy methods, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP), or Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET). You can discuss your options with your therapist, who should be able to guide you down the path that will be most beneficial for you.
- Medication: Sometimes, therapy alone isn’t enough to cure PTSD. Many people find that medication improves their mood, concentration, and overall well-being. Always consult a doctor before starting a new medication, whether it’s for PTSD or any other condition.
- Combination Treatment: Many people rely on medication and therapy to recover from PTSD. You can talk with your medical provider to find what works best.
PTSD treatments work typically by working toward recognizing and addressing the root of the traumatic stress disorder. Medication-based PTSD treatments work by helping to minimize and manage PTSD symptoms. There are a multitude of PTSD medications available, with many others currently undergoing clinical trials to test efficacy and safety.
Though PTSD is not itself classified as an anxiety disorder anymore, there are some similarities between the disorder and anxiety. There is also a high rate of comorbidity of the development of anxiety disorders with PTSD. Thankfully, many available treatments are able to address both conditions simultaneously to varying degrees.
Recovering from this condition is not impossible. Untreated PTSD can cause serious psychological harm over time, but many resources exist to help you recover from the events that caused your PTSD. Something different will work for everyone, so it’s essential to find the best, most effective PTSD treatment or PTSD treatments for your situation. Sometimes that means trying different therapy methods, switching therapists, or giving a new type of medication a chance. Recovery is possible with the right support, mindset, and endurance. Remember that you are never alone.
Other Helpful Tips
Besides medication and therapy, you can also take care of your health in these ways:
- Getting enough rest at night
- Eating healthy meals
- Exercising regularly
- Spending time with loved ones
- Practicing mindfulness
- Joining a support group
Your overall well-being is dependent on a variety of factors. By being proactive, you can stay ahead of your health and potentially prevent problems from ever arising.
How To Support Someone With PTSD
You can support someone with PTSD while also maintaining your health and well-being. Although you may not understand the condition or what the person is going through, you can still take certain steps to offer them support. Above all, you can ensure they know they’re not alone and that you will be there for them. Here are some tips for helping someone in your life who has PTSD:
- Ask them how you can help; don’t assume.
- Don’t push them to open up with you. Be patient and wait for them to be comfortable enough to talk when they open up, practice compassion, and try not to be judgmental.
- Be empathetic toward your loved one.
- Learn about your loved one’s triggers.
- Listen well when they talk about what they’re going through.
- Learn everything you can about PTSD from trusted, reputable sources.
- If your loved one lives with you, remove any triggers from your household.
- Help your loved one get treatment and support.
- Don’t try to fix them.
- Encourage them to seek therapy.
While supporting someone with PTSD is a noble cause, you don’t want to neglect yourself in the process. Remember that you cannot help others if you don’t first help yourself. Make sure to take care of your own needs and have people you can lean on for support. You are an important part of your loved one’s life, and they will need you as they recover from PTSD. It may be a long, difficult journey to recovery, but you can help make a difference in their life.
Online Therapy Can Make A Difference
Are you looking for extra support? Online therapy through BetterHelp may be able to make a difference in your life or that of a loved one. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that matches you with a qualified mental health professional.
Whether you’re facing PTSD or some other condition, a therapist may be able to help get you to a better place. One study found that internet-based therapy can have long-lasting positive effects on those living with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, and may provide better quality help than some in-person therapy options. Internet-based therapy has proved effective for many people and could be worth trying no matter what you might be going through.
Once you sign up on BetterHelp, you’ll be matched with a therapist with whom you can speak throughout the week. Pick up your cell phone, laptop, tablet, or device to start. You can talk through a chat feature, phone call, or video conference; the choice is yours. Many individuals prefer BetterHelp because of its simplicity, privacy, and ease of use. It is also a great option for anyone with a busy schedule or someone who hasn’t had luck with traditional therapy in the past. Reach out today to begin your journey with BetterHelp. With time, you can hope to see positive results in multiple areas of your life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is There An Awareness Day For PTSD?
Yes, June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day. It is a chance for people to learn more about the disorder and recognize that millions of people around the globe experience it daily. Becoming more aware of PTSD can also help eliminate the stigma associated with mental disorders and encourage people to seek help sooner. Many people struggle with PTSD in silence due to shame, embarrassment, or lack of resources. PTSD Awareness Day seeks to eliminate these barriers to support and care. Learning about PTSD can help you spot it in yourself and others. If you suspect that you or a loved one has PTSD, you must reach out for help.
Why Is It Important To Raise Awareness About PTSD?
If you didn’t know, June is PTSD Awareness Month! Awareness regarding any mental health condition is important because it leads to empathy, compassion, and care. When you encounter someone with post-traumatic stress disorder and know about the condition, you can approach them with more empathy and less judgment. In addition, the more people are familiar with PTSD, and the more likely they are to help others receive care for the condition. When people are unfamiliar with certain mental illnesses, they may not be able to sense when something is wrong. As a result, there may be more of a delay in getting the necessary support for themselves or a loved one. For many reasons, the more awareness there is of PTSD, the better.
Can A Person Be Cured Of PTSD?
Similar to most other types of mental illness, there is no cure for PTSD, but there are plenty of treatment options and resources out there that can help reduce symptoms. A combination of mental health services such as therapy and medication are often used to control the disorder, manage symptoms, and get the person back to functioning normally. So, while it may not be curable, it is treatable. People with PTSD can still live happy, healthy lives with the right treatment.
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