Written by Anna Wang
In the United States alone, there are approximately 8 million individuals who have PTSD; however, many do not know of the available and effective treatment options which are critical for recovery.
In observance of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day, we can spread awareness of what PTSD is and how to seek help, while also reducing the stigma associated with PTSD.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people that have experienced and/or witnessed a traumatic event. After going through a traumatic event, it's common that people will be afraid or feel as though they are in danger, but with some time, they may get better. If symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety worsen or continue for months, or even years, and interfere with an individual's life, it is most likely they have PTSD.
Who can have PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any point throughout their life, including children, war veterans, or someone who has experienced assault or abuse. The loss or harm of a friend or family member can also cause PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into 4 categories:
Intrusion – Intrusive thoughts, including flashbacks and nightmares
Avoidance – Avoiding people, places, or objects that can trigger upsetting memories
Cognition and mood changes – Negative thoughts of oneself and the world, inability to recall important details of the event, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, feeling detached from others, unable to experience positive feelings, and distorted feelings such as guilt or blame.
Changes in arousal and reactions – Being easily irritated, prone to angry outbursts, being on edge, easily startled, trouble sleeping or concentrating, and suspicion of others.
Children with PTSD
Children who have experienced PTSD can seem restless, trouble paying attention, or agitated. This can be confused with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), resulting in wrong treatment options.
For a person diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms listed above usually last more than a month and cause problems in the individual’s life and relationships. Many people will develop symptoms within 3 months of the event, though others’ symptoms may appear later.
Medications help control the symptoms of PTSD and often increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Examples include antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, which can be used with psychotherapy or alone.
Psychotherapy is also used to treat PTSD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a category of psychotherapy, has many purposes, from confronting distressing memories to helping an individual deal with stressful triggers.
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273–8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990