PTSD Awareness Day

June 27 is PTSD awareness day, which means it’s time to talk about it. 

In honor of June 27, or PTSD awareness day, I’m writing this article to shed some light on a condition that is often misunderstood. PTSD can affect anybody. Of course, there are factors that can increase an individual’s susceptibility to the disorder, but we’ll talk about that later. What I want people to know right now is that whether you know someone who is, or you yourself is suffering from PTSD, there are resources for you. While it can seem overwhelming, this is a completely controllable disorder. 

Definition: 

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a disorder in which an individual experiences things like flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable anxiety due to experiencing a terrifying event. The symptoms of PTSD eventually become all consuming, completely affecting how the individual suffering from the condition lives their life. To be diagnosed with PTSD, the individual in question must be experiencing symptoms for more than a month.  

History of PTSD: 

PTSD was referred to shell-shock during World War I and for that reason, many people associate PTSD specifically with trauma experienced in combat. However, many different people can experience PTSD for a variety of reasons. In fact, about one in eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Of that one in eleven, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, and your odds only increase if you are U.S. Latino, African American, or American Indian. 

Symptoms and Treatments:

The symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories:

  1. Intrusion- Intrusive thoughts, or repeated memories, can be experienced through nightmares or flashbacks so vivid that the individual may feel as if they are reliving the event over and over again.
  2. Avoidance- People with PTSD will often avoid anything that may trigger a memory of the traumatic event. This means avoiding people and places. Some individuals may also avoid talking about the traumatic event; talking about their feelings connected to the event.
  3. Alterations in cognition and mood- This includes the inability to remember certain aspects of the traumatic event and the inability to find happiness in things that once made the individual happy or experiencing despair altogether (a complete void of happiness). Sufferers of PTSD will also sometimes feel a sense of guilt or shame over the traumatic event. This is seen through distorted thoughts like “I am bad,” or “It was my fault.”  
  4. Alterations in arousal and reactivity- When referring to arousal and reactivity, we refer to irritability or angry outburst. It also includes reckless behavior or paranoia that affects the individual’s social awareness and ability to concentrate and even fall asleep. 

With all of these symptoms, it can be hard to think about the proper steps to heal from such a condition. Despite how overwhelming this condition can be, there is treatment and a way to move on from our trauma. Things like having a support group or strong familial ties are important in recovering from PTSD. Doctors have also found that a mix of psychotherapy and appropriate medication is usually the key to helping control the symptoms of PTSD. Medication like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be key. These can help sufferers cope with stressful situations that go beyond coping mechanisms learned through therapy. A few types of psychotherapy used to treat PTSD are:

  • Cognitive Therapy- A type of talk therapy; helps you recognize negative cognitive Patterns; often used in conjunction with exposure therapy.
  • Exposure Therapy- A type of behavioral therapy that helps you overcome nightmares and flashbacks. It provides a safe environment that allows you to face, head-on, the frightening situations and memories that are causing the PTSD. 
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)- ”combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to them.”
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)– This type of psychotherapy helps individuals become aware of inaccurate or negative self-talk. This allows those suffering from things like PTSD to view difficult situations more clearly, giving them a chance to deal with said situations more effectively. 

As someone who also suffers from PTSD, and as someone who has sought help for it, all I can say is that recovery is possible. It can take a lot of effort and time, but that’s why there are therapists and doctors here, ready to help you at a moment’s notice. I know it can be scary at first, to confront that trauma, but, in the end, you’ll be better off for it. Trust  me.  

Written By Katy Egan

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PTSD Awareness Day