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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop in victims or even witnesses of a traumatic event. It is believed that as many as 8 percent of Americans are suffering from PTSD at any given time. That means, if you’re traveling on a plane with 200 passengers, as many as 16 of them could have PTSD.
In 2010, the United States Congress declared June 27th PTSD Awareness Day to bring attention to this serious disorder. The National Center for PTSD uses the entire month of June to educate people and help connect those in need with proper treatment.
The medical community has long known that negative psychological effects of a traumatic event can linger in people long after their initial encounter with trauma. Some scholars even point to a speech in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, written around 1597, as one of the first accurate descriptions of PTSD symptoms.
PTSD has long been associated with veterans returning home from war. Earlier diagnoses of the condition went by various names, such as shell shock or battle fatigue or traumatic war neurosis.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), published by the America Psychiatric Association (APA) and often referred to as the “bible of psychiatry,” included post-traumatic stress disorder in their edition.
Make no mistake – PTSD is not limited to war veterans. Victims of sexual assault and abuse, domestic violence, or anyone who’s sustained a violent physical or psychological injury can develop this condition. While many of the symptoms can start directly after the trauma, some people don’t experience trouble for months, or in some cases years later.
What are 3 Common Symptoms of People Suffering From PTSD?
1. Reliving The Trauma
Sometimes referred to a flashback, this occurs when victims remember the event and feel the same horror and fear they experienced during their initial trauma. These episodes can be triggered by any number of things, such as noises that might sound like a gunshot, returning to the location of the traumatic event, or even hearing reports of the same crime being committed against another person. Every individual has different triggers.
2. Constantly On Edge
This is often called increased emotional arousal, which generally causes someone living with PTSD to feel an impending sense of danger. This can result in lack of sleep, trouble concentrating, irritable and angry moods, and a constant fear about personal safety.
3. Difficulty Expressing Feelings
This is a psychological defense mechanism used to avoid painful memories. Over time, a lack or inability to communicate can cause damage to important personal and professional relationships and further isolate someone with PTSD.
Unfortunately, studies show that as many as 43% of those living with PTSD develop substance abuse issues. They might turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to self-medicate or alleviate painful symptoms.
Prolonged addiction to drugs and alcohol further alters the brain’s chemistry, often making it even more difficult for a person to get the proper medical treatment. PTSD and substance abuse disorder is known as a dual diagnosis.
Though June is PTSD Awareness Month, the general public should always be willing to learn about this disorder, connect with anyone who might be suffering, and share the very effective methods and resources available for treating this illness.
Through better public understanding and empathy for people with PTSD, someday we might be able to end the unnecessary stigma of mental illness and have more people be willing to seek treatment.
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