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What is PTSD?

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health disorder that can occur after someone experiences a life-threatening event. Most people think about Combat Veterans when PTSD is brought up, but this also impacts people who have lived through natural disasters, assaults, rape, mass violence, abuse, domestic violence and even accidents. [3]

  • According to the US Department of Defense, since 2003 there have been approximately 40,000 military service members return from deployments that have been officially diagnosed with PTSD. [1]
  • 67 % of people exposed to mass violence develop PTSD, which is a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events. [2]
  • 7.7 million Americans over the age of 18 have PTSD and people who have experienced previous traumatic events run a higher risk of developing PTSD. [2]

Sources:[1] [2] [3]

So how do you know if you have PTSD?

Some of the common symptoms include being highly anxious, constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for something bad to happen, having multiple contingency plans in the event that something may occur, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts, paranoia, feeling numb, substance misuse, irritability, anger outbursts, flashbacks and avoidance of places which may trigger a person to have heightened anxiety states or flashbacks.

What can be done to help with PTSD?

One of the key components to PTSD is the presence of avoidance behaviors. These avoidance behaviors develop to protect you from further harm, but when they continue after the danger has passed, it can become problematic. This can lead to other issues such as agoraphobia, heightened panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty being in public, sleep paralysis, paranoia and even hallucinations in some cases. The more you avoid, the worse your symptoms of PTSD can get. This is where getting help to learn about what you are avoiding and how to put in behavioral and cognitive changes to improve your daily life come in. There is also support in numbers. By finding a support group with others who have been through similar experiences, you may feel more comfortable in sharing your traumas and experiences that have been occurring since the trauma. Also having a therapist who specializes in trauma can help you to learn skills specific to your trauma as well as help you to process the impact of these experiences so that you can begin living your best life. Asking for help shows courage and strength, not weakness. Author: Angela Powell, MA, LPC