Did you know that June is, among other things, PTSD Awareness Month?
Almost 3.7% of Americans over the age of 13 are diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. While that may seem like a small percentage, that’s millions of people.
Many people are unfamiliar with the details of PTSD. They may think that PTSD can only happen as the result of combat or a serious accident.
But this isn’t true. There are many causes of PTSD, and a lack of awareness can lead to many people not seeking or getting the help that they need.
During PTSD Awareness Month, we want to take this opportunity to inform people about this serious mental health condition. Keep reading to learn all about PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is short for post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a condition that may start after someone experiences any kind of traumatic event.
When we experience trauma, our brains change. Trauma can lead to depression, personality disorders, substance abuse, and even physical health problems.
There are many treatment methods for PTSD, but not all of them will be effective for every patient. Treatment is almost always necessary for PTSD recovery.
What Causes PTSD?
As we mentioned before, many people are misguided into thinking that PTSD is only the result of combat.
There’s a reason for this. PTSD used to be referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue. These names lead to the belief (and represent the old common belief) that it’s a mental disorder that’s unique to soldiers.
It’s true that many veterans who experience intense combat situations do experience PTSD. These situations are traumatizing, and they may have involved personal injury, the death of friends, and terrifying or traumatizing sights and sounds.
That said, there are other things that can contribute to PTSD, and some of them are surprising.
Lesser-Known but Common PTSD Causes
In short, anything that can cause trauma can also cause PTSD. This will be different for every person. Something that isn’t traumatic for someone who has proper support structures may be traumatic for someone who doesn’t.
One of the top causes of PTSD is sexual assault. This impacts people of all genders, though more women report PTSD from sexual assault than men. Domestic abuse or other abusive situations may also result in PTSD.
PTSD can also be caused by things like car accidents, the death of a friend or family member, or witnessing an accident.
Many people experience unexpected PTSD from childhood trauma. This PTSD may not show up until adulthood.
This is often confusing for people who are suffering from it. Because there isn’t as much information on this kind of PTSD, they may not have enough support.
People who were exposed to violence or abuse as children may develop normally but experience the after-effects in adulthood. This can result in the fear of others, intense flashbacks, or emotional memories that are difficult to process.
Even things that may not seem traumatic can cause PTSD. Poorly handled divorce can cause a child to develop PTSD in the future, as can any instance in which the family structure changes without warning.
Symptoms and Effects of PTSD
There are several common symptoms that people with PTSD experience. If you know someone with PTSD, you may recognize them.
The first symptom, and often one of the symptoms that therapists aim to treat, is avoidance. This means that the person with PTSD will avoid anything that could trigger their trauma, as well as any thoughts of the traumatic event or feeling. This prevents the person from processing the memory.
People with PTSD may experience angry outbursts as a result of flashbacks or feeling misunderstood. Because the trauma replays, it’s normal for someone to be emotionally exhausted.
People with PTSD will often experience intrusive thoughts. These thoughts include flashbacks, involuntary memories, or bad dreams. They’re often so vivid that the person can’t tell that they’re not real.
Complex PTSD is different. While it includes all of the symptoms of standard PTSD, it also presents symptoms that are more common in other mental health conditions.
These can include:
- Attachment issues (both anxious and avoidant)
- Poor emotional control
- Thoughts of suicide
- Emotional flashbacks
Complex PTSD is more common amongst people who experienced trauma as children, experienced frequent trauma or abuse, or experienced trauma at the hands of a loved one.
There is help for people with PTSD. With a combination of therapy and medication, many people with PTSD heal and live normal lives.
Exposure therapy is common for PTSD patients. It allows patients to experience aspects of the traumatic event without re-exposing them to the trauma itself.
There are several kinds of exposure therapy, but EMDR is one form that’s growing in popularity.
Common medications for PTSD include SSRIs and anti-anxiety medications. Patients may also benefit from mood stabilizers.
Helping and Raising PTSD Awareness
PTSD Awareness Month is the perfect time to help out with awareness in your own community.
This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. You can start by informing people on social media about PTSD and sharing helpful information. There are always infographics going around on platforms like Instagram that make PTSD information sharable.
If you notice someone dismissing someone else’s PTSD, talk to them. Make sure that they’re informed and talk about how they may be perpetuating a harmful stigma against this misunderstood mental health condition.
People with PTSD need support if they’re going to seek treatment. Be part of the solution.
PTSD Awareness Month: Stay Informed
PTSD Awareness Month is the perfect time to inform yourself about PTSD and support any friends or family members with PTSD. If these symptoms and causes sound familiar to you, it might also be time for you to seek your own treatment.
At the Mental Health Center of San Diego, we want to help. We offer both therapy and medication assistance to help anyone suffering from PTSD. Our goal is to help you heal. Reach out today to talk to a compassionate care representative so you can start your journey to wellness.