Updated: Aug 12
Have you experienced a traumatic event that you can't stop thinking about? Do you have horrible dreams and flashbacks? Do you feel like you are hyper-aware for danger?
If so, you may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a mental health condition that effects many people who have been through situations that are so outside the norm that our minds can't cope with them in a normal way. PTSD changes the way the brain functions, and makes it difficult to go back to a normal life.
According to Veterans Affairs, here are some statistics relating to PTSD:
Most people who go through a traumatic event will not develop PTSD.
About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Many people who have PTSD will recover and no longer meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD after treatment. So, this number counts people who have PTSD at any point in their life, even if their symptoms go away.
About 5 out of every 100 adults (or 5%) in the U.S. has PTSD in any given year. In 2020, about 13 million Americans had PTSD.
Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. About 8 of every 100 women (or 8%) and 4 of every 100 men (or 4%) will have PTSD at some point in their life. This is in part due to the types of traumatic events that women are more likely to experience—such as sexual assault—compared to men.
Veterans are more likely to have PTSD than civilians. Veterans who deployed to a war zone are also more likely to have PTSD than those who did not deploy.
Although PTSD is most common in Veterans, there are other reasons that someone may have PTSD as well including sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, accidents, or living in poverty.
Many of the symptoms of PTSD are debilitating at times, and difficult to overcome. This means, that seeking help for your PTSD is crucial.
Symptoms of PTSD
If you have experienced a traumatic event in your own life, or you know someone close to you who has, then you may want to find out if you are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD.
According to The Mayo Clinic, there are four different categories of PTSD symptoms, and people will suffer some of the symptoms in each category:
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Feeling detached from family and friends
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
Being easily startled or frightened
Always being on guard for danger
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Overwhelming guilt or shame
For children 6 years old and younger, signs and symptoms may also include:
Re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play
Frightening dreams that may or may not include aspects of the traumatic event
If you are experiencing symptoms even several weeks or months after the traumatic event, it is likely that you may be experiencing PTSD. It is important to see a mental health professional so that you will be able to receive a formal diagnosis of PTSD and begin treatment.
Treatments for PTSD
Getting into treatment for PTSD may seem like a daunting task at first, because reaching out for help requires a need to trust someone new. This can be difficult when you have PTSD and are watchful for danger around every corner. However, being able to trust a mental health professional is crucial for your recovery.
You can begin by reaching out to your doctor and getting a referral to a mental health professional. Your doctor may be able to prescribe some medications as well, so that you will be relieved of some of your symptoms as you enter into therapy.
There is some stigma against taking psychiatric medications, however they can be very helpful with a condition such as PTSD. For more information, you can read about Why I Chose Medication for my PTSD and I'm Glad that I Did.
As you enter treatment with a mental health professional, you will likely begin talk therapy. This is a helpful way to learn some coping skills for your PTSD and learn to regulate your emotions.
Once you get to a more emotionally regulated place, it can be helpful to get additional treatment to reprocess the trauma and make it more disturbing. In my treatment for PTSD, I have found that EMDR is one of the best treatments for PTSD. When you are treated with EMDR therapy, you are able to reprocess the traumatic memories so that they are less emotionally charged when you think of them.
According to the EMDR Institute,
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
Participating in EMDR was one of the most helpful ways that I was able to feel less PTSD symptoms. It can help you become more balanced, have less panic attacks and flashbacks, and to feel more like your old self.
Your therapist may also recommend that you go to group therapy. This is helpful because you can connect with other people with similar experiences to your own, and it can help you feel less alone in your healing journey. Having other people that you can rely on can help you feel supported in your recovery.
In addition to treatment in therapy, you can do things at home to help with your recovery. Your therapist may have homework assignments for you to do between sessions. Also, there are other ways to feel more mentally balanced. When you have PTSD, Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga can help. This is because these practices help to still your mind, and calm your racing thoughts.
If you need further assistance in finding a therapist, you can read about the the process that I went through to find a therapist in the US. Remember, there are many people out there who can help you to cope with your trauma, and you don't have to suffer through this on your own!