More often than not, people tend to associate the acronym, PTSD, with veterans returning from war. This is because throughout the years of World War I and after World War II, many veterans faced severe PTSD, or “shell shock.” However, this is only one possible cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In order to get the bigger picture on what potentially causes this disorder, we should focus on what it truly is: a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people that have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event or disaster. Therefore, not only does war/combat potentially cause PTSD, but victims of sexual or violent assault, natural disasters, serious accidents or terrorist acts can be vulnerable to the disorder as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that PTSD can only occur from an extreme accident; any event or series of events that causes overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can potentially be symptoms of PTSD.
So, now that you’ve gotten a bigger glimpse of what PTSD really is, it’s important to understand what the signs and symptoms are.
Signs & Symptoms:
1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event
This can be extremely rough to go through for anybody. Just experiencing something traumatic is already difficult to cope with, but having reoccurring thoughts of the event makes it much harder. These thoughts can be in the form of nightmares, intrusive memories or flashbacks, or even intense physical/mental reactions when being reminded of the trauma.
For example… Earlier this year, I was in a really bad car accident. Not only was I mentally hurt, but I had physical pain as well. When I drive sometimes and have flashbacks to the accident, I can feel physical pain in the same spot that I felt it at the traumatic event. This is not normal, hence the being part of this list of symptoms for PTSD!
2. Avoidance and Numbing
For some people, traumatic events can force their mind to block out any reminders associated with the situation. This enables the individual to avoid anything that reminds them of the event and lack interest in activities associated with it as well.
For further explanation… After experiencing an accident within a vehicle, its not uncommon for individuals to avoid traveling that way for a while (or ever again.) It can be very difficult to get behind the wheel after the trauma, and that’s just another step to healing. Once you’ve been able to notice your avoidance, you can take more steps to getting back into your normal routine.
3. Negative Thoughts and Mood Changes
Another unfortunate symptom of PTSD can be negative thoughts or mood changes. This can be seen through feelings of loneliness or isolation. Sometimes individuals feel that their disorder forces them into a corner by themselves. However, they’re just too wrapped up within their trauma to understand that they’re not really alone. Another feeling is difficulty in concentration. This means that an individual finds it hard to focus on a single task or to achieve daily activities throughout the day. Hopelessness is also seen within people that have PTSD; they often tend to feel that they’ll never truly get over their feelings from the trauma and lose hope in recovery.
For further explanation… Going through any tragic event, like an accident, can greatly increase negative thoughts due to the experience of witnessing the traumatic situation.
4. Hyperarousal & Reactive Symptoms
Some individuals with PTSD may experience irritability and angry outbursts. This can be seen throughout their behavior as an increase of recklessness or self-destruction. These people may also be easily startled due to their experience. Problems sleeping or concentrating is also common.
Remember that these symptoms are usually persistent for months or sometimes years. They’ll usually impact an individuals life greatly and cause significant distress. Therefore, don’t confuse these symptoms with normal feelings that occur after difficult events. Not everyone that goes through a traumatic event has PTSD, just like every war-veteran doesn’t necessarily have PTSD.
Do you have PTSD?
If you answer yes to three or more of the questions below, it’s a potential option and consulting a qualified mental health official may be worthwhile.
1. Have you witnessed or experienced a traumatic, life-threatening event?
2. Did this experience make you feel intensely afraid, horrified, or helpless?
3. Do you have trouble getting the event out of your mind?
4. Do you startle more easily and feel more irritable or angry than you did before the event?
5. Do you go out of your way to avoid activities, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event?
6. Do you have more trouble falling asleep or concentrating than you did before the event?
7. Have your symptoms lasted for more than a month?
8. Is your distress making it hard for you to work or function normally?https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-symptoms-self-help-treatment.htm
Now that you’re more aware of the signs and symptoms… What are some positive ways to help yourself and others cope with the negative feelings associated with PTSD?
Trauma experts believe that face-to-face support from others is the most important factor in PTSD recovery.
Although PTSD can sometimes force people to isolate or withdraw from family and friends, it’s important to emphasize your support by comforting them regardless. However, this does NOT mean to force them into conversation. Respecting an individuals boundaries is just as important as maintaining support for them. Just spending time with your loved one can increase the potential of their healing and recovery.
When reaching out to your loved one, remember that they should be in the lead and the conversation should never be forced. They should see your support as a sign of comfort, not an obligation to spill all their feelings. Therefore, you must also have extreme patience when dealing with these people because time is an essential factor in healing, and nobody recovers at the same exact rate.
If they do decide to communicate, try and discuss normal things. This forces your loved one to disregard their negative feelings and enable their minds to find peace from the trauma while you’re communicating. If they decide to go out somewhere, try and do normal things. It’s recommended to do something normal or routinely because it helps the person to pursue pleasurable hobbies. For example, exercising, doing art, or listening to music are all strategies for relieving anxious feelings associated with PTSD.
I know it can feel like the most difficult task to reach out to people during rough times, but it truly makes a huge difference to have someone you trust to talk to. At least acknowledge the people that reach out to you, because in the long run, they’ll be the ones you’ll have to talk to when you’re ready. Building a group of people, or a support system, that you trust with your feelings is so helpful when going through recovery because it lets you know that you have an abundance of support to fall back on.
What is a “trigger?”
A trigger is basically any person, place, thing, or situation that reminds you or your loved one of their trauma and sets off PTSD symptoms like memories or flashbacks.
Triggers aren’t always obvious when they’re affecting somebody. Sometimes people take some time to truly realize that the feelings they’re having with this trigger is due to their PTSD.
So, if you or somebody you know has PTSD, it’s important to decide the appropriate response to specific triggers. Sometimes having a plan in place can lessen the intensity of the situation and allow you or your loved one to calm down.
In order to even discuss or think about possible triggers, they must be identified. They’re often categorized into external and internal triggers. Some triggers are very common within individuals suffering from PTSD, and others can be completely unique depending on the person. Here are some of the more common external and internal PTSD symptoms!
Common External PTSD Triggers:
• Sounds (associated with the trauma)
•Smells (associated with the trauma)
•Sights (associated with trauma)
•People (that recall the trauma)
•Locations (that recall the trauma)
•Things (that recall the trauma)
•Certain types of weather or seasons
•Media coverage about trauma
•Negative news events
•Confined situations (in a large crowd, stuck in traffic, waiting on a line or in an office…)
Common Internal PTSD Triggers:
•Physical Discomfort (such as thirst, hunger, sickness, fatigue, sexual frustration…)
•Bodily sensations that recall the trauma like pain or old wounds/scars
•Mixed feelings of love, vulnerability, and resentment towards family members or loved ones.
Now that you’ve been made aware of common external and internal PTSD triggers, it’ll be easier to discuss options with your loved ones. Not only will this be helpful for them, but it’s helpful to know specific things to avoid in conversation. Therefore, you prioritize the comfort of your loved one and recognize that their feelings matter.
It’s okay if you need more help.
PTSD treatment programs for veterans are actively available! Click: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/gethelp/tx_programs.asp
Seek Therapy! The reason that therapists are located in so many facilities is because mental health is extremely important when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Look into therapy if you need someone to talk to!
Try Medical Treatments! There are many prescriptions given to individuals to help suppress anxious feelings from PTSD. Talk to your doctor about beginning medication.
PTSD ALLIANCE! Click: http://www.ptsdalliance.org/help/
Wounded Warrior Project! Click: https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/combat-stress-recovery-program
PTSD is a serious illness and impacts so many people worldwide. Since this is a mental illness, it has such a brutal impact on the mind. It truly places a huge burden on daily life tasks and makes everyday activities extremely difficult for some people. This is why educating ourselves and bringing awareness to the illness in 2020 is so essential. When people understand how serious it is, they’ll understand how serious providing help and support is.
Thanks for reading! Please share this article to spread awareness of PTSD and help to promote a better future for those suffering from mental illness. Feel free to contact me (see contact info page) with any questions, comments, or concerns about PTSD Awareness Day! 🤍