These days it seems most talk about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is in regards to men and women in the military. While this diagnosis is quite common in this population, it is also common among the general population. Though not as frequently discussed, men, women, and children without any military experience may also be diagnosed with PTSD. Many have heard of this disorder but, what exactly is it?
Essentially, individuals with this diagnosis have experienced one or several events that they interpreted as traumatic. As a result of this experience(s), these individuals may have trouble sleeping, develop nightmares, experience flashbacks (quick memories, smells, sounds, etc. that remind them of the traumatic event), and have difficulty concentrating. Additionally, these individuals may avoid the place the event occurred at and they also may avoid speaking to others about the traumatic event(s). Of course, there are many more symptoms a person may experience as a result of experiencing a traumatic event but, these are some of the more common symptoms. What is deemed a traumatic event? While natural disasters, witnessing a crime, rape, verbal/physical/sexual abuse, and various accidents are common causes of PTSD, any event(s) that an individual is unable to cope with by himself or herself may be seen as traumatic.
So what do you do with this information? Unfortunately, not many mental health professionals have had sufficient (or any) training in working with individuals who have experienced the above symptoms and may even meet the criteria for PTSD. You may be reading this thinking, “Hey, that sounds like me” or “This sounds like someone I know.” I’m here to give you some helpful suggestions that will help you and your loved ones on the road to recovery and a more fulfilling life!
• Do your research! Believe it or not, but not all therapists are qualified to work with individuals who have experienced trauma. Also, visit the National Center for PTSD’s website: http://www.ptsd.va.gov for more information about PTSD symptoms, up-to-date research, and resources.
• Essential to any individual’s recovery from a debilitating disorder is support. If you feel you may have PTSD, seek out additional support. If you know someone who may have PTSD, show some support! Become involved in their recovery, make yourself available to talk as often as you can, and consider family therapy if it is appropriate.
• Almost all individuals with a diagnosis of PTSD also have co-occurring diagnoses (or eventually develop them). Some common co-occurring problems include: Alcohol Abuse, Depression, Anxiety, Anger, and Substance Abuse to name a few. It is important to seek assistance as soon as possible to minimize the impact of the trauma and begin the healing process.
As a psychotherapist specializing in traumatic stress, I understand that all this information may be overwhelming and you may still be confused if you or a loved one may suffer from PTSD. You may get lost sifting through the millions of publications on PTSD; you are not alone. Contacting a physician or psychotherapist is the first step down the path to recovery and, if necessary, I hope you will take it!