June is PTSD awareness month. PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. Most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. If it's been longer than a few months and you're still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.
PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person's control. An estimated 5.2 million adults battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the United States.
Signs and Symptoms:
Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
-At least one re-experiencing symptom
-At least one avoidance symptom
-At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
-At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms include:
-Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Avoidance symptoms include:
-Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
-Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
-Being easily startled
-Feeling tense or “on edge”
-Having difficulty sleeping
-Having angry outbursts
Cognition and mood symptoms include:
-Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
-Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
-Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
-Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
People may experience:
Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation
Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness
Sleep: insomnia or nightmares
Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts
The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both. Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health provider who is experienced with PTSD.