This month is PTSD awareness month! There are currently about 8 million people in the United States that have been diagnosed with PTSD. In order to enlighten more people about PTSD, here are some things you and others might need to know.
PTSD is the acronym that stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD often occurs in patients who have experienced an extremely scary or dangerous event. During a traumatic event, some people experience a “fight-or-flight” response, which triggers certain symptoms to arise in a patient after the experience is over. Most people can recover from these initial symptoms, but there are some people who still experience issues with the symptoms and are considered to have PTSD.
People who have PTSD often experience extreme amounts of stress, fright, and anxiety, even when they are not in a particularly dangerous situation. While most people can experience extreme symptoms from a scary situation, the majority of those people do not develop chronic PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, as soon as three months after a dangerous incident, but they can begin as late as years and years after the incident. Symptoms, “must last more than a month and also be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD.”
Common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, or reliving the trauma over again, and having physical symptoms when they occur, such as a racing heart or sweating. Other symptoms can include bad dreams and frightening thoughts. Seemingly random words, sounds, objects, and situations can trigger any of these symptoms in patients.
Any person who has been through a troublesome event can develop PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 people out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Because of genetic factors, some people are more likely to develop PTSD than others and women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. It is important to remember that not everyone who goes through a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
What kind of treatment options are available for people who have been diagnosed with PTSD? Common treatment options are medications, and psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy. Some of these treatments may not work for every person, as each patient is different and may not take to certain treatments. The most studied type of medication for people with PTSD is the antidepressant, which helps control certain types of symptoms that people with PTSD may experience such as worry, anger, sadness, and more. There are also other types of medications that help treat things like insomnia and sleeping problems as well as nightmares.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the practice of talking to a mental health professional to treat a mental illness. Talk therapy can be done in both a group format or it can be one on one with a therapist. Oftentimes it depends on the person, but the average time for this therapy is about 6 to 12 weeks. There are many different types of psychotherapy, and they all treat PTSD in different ways. Some types target the specific symptoms directly, while other therapy types may focus on problems dealing with a person’s job, family, or social issues. Depending on the person’s needs, each doctor picks and chooses what they think will be right to treat that person.
Talk therapy is designed to teach people how to react to the scary events that trigger PTSD symptoms. The therapy may be different for each person, but most therapies teach about trauma and the effects of it, teach about controlling anger and relaxation skills, help people identify their feelings of guilt, shame, and other feelings about what happened to them, and help change how people react to their PTSD symptoms, and oftentimes this means that therapy helps them face the reminders about their trauma in order to overcome it.
How can you get involved with supporting people with PTSD or find resources yourself? The National Center for PTSD has many resources that can help you and others get the information you need about PTSD. This month, the National Center for PTSD is holding a Virtual Walk to support and raise awareness for those with PTSD. They also have a form on their website in which you can sign to signify that you are willing to help raise awareness for PTSD. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has lots of resources including blog posts, articles, and seminars that can help you get more involved and encourage you to learn more about how to support those with PTSD.
In order to erase the stigma against those with post-traumatic stress disorder, we first must all do our part to inform ourselves, then get involved with supporting and helping those who live with PTSD everyday. Visit the National Center for PTSD and other websites listed to get more information about how you can help today.