World (GREED) – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a sometimes crippling mental disorder that is the result of psychological injury. when a person has directly experienced or witnessed an extremely traumatic, tragic, or terrifying event sometimes it does real psychological damage. PTSD can happen at any age, even childhood, and can include a wide range of other psychiatric issues, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, panic disorder, agoraphobia, substance abuse, self harm, and many more. The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD in the USA is 7-8% overall, with women at a 10% lifetime prevalence and men at a 5% lifetime prevalence. To provide some perspective on those stats, the US population is somewhere around 320,000,000, how many people is 7-8%? Can’t be that many, right? Wrong. 320 million x 7% to 8% = almost 25,000,000 people experiencing PTSD in their lifetime in the USA. That’s million, not thousand; 25 million.
PTSD was once identified as shell shock, war neurosis, or battle fatigue, as the symptoms and issues were noticed in veterans of war, but a great many people with PTSD were never in the military. Kidnapping, being held captive, serious accidents, violence, such as rape, mugging, or torture, serious natural disasters. The event that triggers it may be something that threatened the person’s life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed, such as has happened to many people who were exposed to events such as accidents that caused a high amount of terror, like plane crashes or 9/11. Then there is complex trauma, known as C-PTSD, which includes PTSD, except the trauma was multiple times over a span of time, such as in cases of severe domestic abuse or being a prisoner of war (and yes, those two things are absolutely comparable). We’ll look at C-PTSD as a separate issue in another article, because it comes with a few differences from PTSD.
An individual with PTSD may experience sleep problems, depression, dissociation, and hypervigilance. Symptoms can be all over the spectrum of severity. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling affectionate or happy, some people may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. Seeing, or sensing with the other senses, things that remind them of the trauma could cause triggers, which can lead to avoidance of certain places, objects, people, activities, or situations that trigger a trauma or stress response. Post-traumatic stress disorder can even cause people to be unable to socialize or have a job. Triggering things or circumstances don’t have to be out of the ordinary, they are sometimes every day items and circumstances gone very bad. Anniversaries of the event are often quite difficult for individuals with distinct events that have caused them this trauma. PTSD causes the individual to repeatedly re-live the trauma in the form of nightmares and/or disturbing recollections or flashbacks during the day. The nightmares or recollections may come and go, and a person may be free of them for weeks at a time, and then experience them daily for no particular reason. A flashback can be a somewhat minor thing that just causes memories that can pass through, or in severe incidents one can actually lose touch with reality for a short time and believe the event is currently happening, that the perpetrator is near, or that whatever thing traumatized them is in the here and now when it is not.
PTSD can be treated. There are some therapeutic methods with great success in lessening the symptoms of PTSD, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). If you think you may be suffering with PTSD, there are several online screenings tools, such as the one found at Mental Health America. Don’t just rely on an online tool, though; it is best to be evaluated by a medical professional capable of identifying trauma. Your regular doctor can direct you if you’re unsure where to look. As always when discussing mental health, it is a good idea to mention that suicide isn’t the answer. If you are feeling suicidal please reach out for help, you can get through this. The National Suicide Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day – the phone number is 1-800-273-8255.