PTSD Awareness Month: Common Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

By Sydney Wiederhold|Updated June 28, 2022

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 PTSD. Although PTSD is a serious condition, there is hope for coping with and treating it. This PTSD Awareness Month, you can become more aware of the disorder and learn how to spot it. 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?

PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder caused by a distressing situation, event, or experience. A person may witness the event or go through it themselves. Some people who have traumatic experiences 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. Genetics may make someone more likely to develop PTSD as well. About 7 or 8 people out of every 100 will experience symptoms of PTSD at some time during their life.

Not everyone who goes through something traumatic 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. One could develop PTSD, while the other may not. Some different potential causes of PTSD could include:

  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • 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 a natural disaster 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

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 go through one of these events, seek help right away to lower your risk of 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 PTSD. Even though treatments available for the condition can have promising results, many people still don’t seek the help they need. 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 recognize PTSD Awareness Month by sharing information about the disorder, helping those close to you who live with it and encouraging people to seek help if they have symptoms of PTSD. 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

The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts or memories
  • Having flashbacks of the event
  • Feeling numb or detached
  • Avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
  • Sleep problems
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Irritability
  • 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.

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.

Diagnosing PTSD

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, 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:

  1. Exposure to a threat like death, serious injury, or sexual violence. You must either directly experience or witness it.
  2. Development of intrusive symptoms after the event occurs. These could include flashbacks, memories, nightmares, and other psychological reactions.
  3. Avoidance of situations, people, or things that remind the person of the traumatic event.
  4. Negative cognitions and moods as a result of the event.
  5. Noticeable changes in behavior, arousal, or reactivity because of the experience.
  6. Symptoms persist for more than one month.
  7. The event causes clinically significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas of life.
  8. 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, it occurs right after the traumatic experience. Since everyone will have a different timeline and experience, it’s important to involve professionals from the beginning.

Treatment Options

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 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 could include 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.

Recovering from PTSD is not impossible. 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 treatment plan 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
  • Journaling
  • 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. Internet-based therapy 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.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.