By: Sania Khanzode
June is National PTSD Awareness Month! PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is linked to trauma and stress and impacts approximately 7% of the population. In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at what PTSD really is.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Experiencing fear after a traumatic event is normal as most people will experience symptoms post-trauma. However, for most, recovery follows shortly. Those who continue to exhibit symptoms of stress are diagnosed with PTSD.
What causes PTSD? Trauma is a broad term, so let’s look into some examples that have been shown to cause PTSD.
The NHS outlines the following:
- Serious accidents
- Physical or sexual assault
- Abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse
- Exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure
- Serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care
- Childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby
- The death of someone close to you
- War and conflict
Though these are not the only causes, they are the most common ones. Researchers are still unclear as to why PTSD develops in some victims of trauma and not others. Research has suggested that a smaller hippocampus could, in part, create susceptibility for PTSD.
What does PTSD look like? PTSD has many symptoms, split into four categories:
- Re-experiencing: Flashbacks, recurring dreams about the event, etc.
- Avoidance: Avoiding reminders, thoughts, and feelings of the event
- Arousal and Reactivity: Being “on edge”, tense, difficulty concentrating, etc.
- Cognition and Mood: Cognitive distortions about the event, loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, continuous negative emotions
The NIMH tells us, “To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have… At least one re-experiencing symptom, At least one avoidance symptom, At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, [and] At least two cognition and mood symptoms.”
Though PTSD is incredibly difficult to deal with, it can be treated! Let’s talk about some treatments for PTSD: the two main ones are psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy is done by a mental health professional and helps people with PTSD by allowing them to identify their triggers and manage their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used to treat PTSD.
The medications that are most commonly used to treat PTSD are known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). SSRIs aid in treating the symptoms of PTSD and are often prescribed alongside psychotherapy.
It is important that we are educated about PTSD and how it can impact those who suffer from it. It is also important that we support those who may be suffering from PTSD. If you know someone that suffers from PSTD, you can help by supporting them, encouraging them, and just listening to them. Being aware of PTSD and what it entails is the first step.