PTSD Awareness DayShelby Wall
June is PTSD Awareness Month, and June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day. Everyone should understand the facts about this painful mental illness.
PTSD became a household word in the early twenty-first century due to media attention given former military combatants, but survivors of other traumatic situations develop the disorder as well. Cases have been diagnosed in:
- Victims of violent crimes
- Drug users who experience overdoses or clashes with the law
- Survivors of natural disasters
- People trapped in long-term traumatic situations such as domestic abuse
- Those close to the person who actually suffered the trauma (“sympathy pains”)
- Even dogs and cats
Around 7.5 percent of the population experience PTSD during their lifetimes. Sometimes it passes on its own, but ignoring the signs is taking a dangerous chance, as PTSD sufferers are at high risk for suicide.
Risk Factors for PTSD
Although it’s normal to be left temporarily shaken after a frightening experience, not every trauma survivor develops PTSD. The psychological trauma that drives the disorder is characterized by actual brain-function changes, often abetted by physical injury.
It’s important to be aware that no one is guaranteed immunity to psychological trauma or PTSD. However, the risk is greater for women, children and people who:
- Are caught off guard by a traumatic occurrence
- Experience ongoing trauma (including struggles to cope with an incident’s aftermath) rather than a single incident
- Lack self-confidence and resilience
- Lack human support
- Already have a mental illness or drug use disorder
- Have a family history of mental or behavioral illness
Test Yourself for PTSD
An official PTSD diagnosis requires clinical confirmation that someone is experiencing regular avoidance symptoms, persistent memories, volatile moods, personality changes and overwhelming negative emotions. However, if you live through an event with potential to inflict psychological trauma, and especially if you feel no calmer after five weeks, you can use the following questions as a starter PTSD test:
- Am I unable to forget the incident even for brief periods? Am I experiencing highly vivid memories or nightmares, or flashbacks where I mentally relive the experience and forget where I am right now?
- Do I find myself completely unable to recall certain events? Do I experience panic at the thought of trying to remember?
- Have I gone to extremes in avoiding situations or people associated with the original trauma?
- Have I lost interest in longtime relationships or activities?
- Am I significantly more fearful or pessimistic than before the incident?
- Am I jumping or melting down at any provocation?
- Am I tempted to numb the pain with alcoholic drinks or other unhealthy “coping” mechanisms? Or have I already started down that path?
- Am I troubled by such thoughts as, “I should have died instead of someone else,” or “Life’s not worth living anymore”? Have I thought about suicide?
Be aware that no self-administered PTSD test is a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Anyone who suffers a traumatic incident should get counseling in the aftermath, even if no obvious psychological trauma is present. (PTSD awareness also includes knowing when the disorder might develop, and how to reduce the risk. If the possibility is ignored, PTSD may surface, without warning, months or years after an incident.) The above test is only to assist in making a list of symptoms to share with your doctor or therapist.
Importance of Awareness
While the official term “post-traumatic stress disorder” dates back only to 1980, trauma’s potential to make a permanent psychological mark has been recognized for centuries, though sufferers were often treated less than sympathetically. Thankfully, PTSD (along with other mental/behavioral disorders) is now recognized as a treatable illness and not a character flaw. If you or someone else develop symptoms, don’t make things worse with guilt trips, but talk to a counselor immediately. PTSD is treatable, and awareness can save lives.
Help for PTSD
Serene Behavioral Health provides personalized treatment for PTSD and other mood and anxiety disorders. We believe that full recovery and a meaningful future are possible even after severe trauma. You don’t have to suffer in silence any longer: contact us anytime for more information and for a professional assessment of your symptoms.