Before we end June I didn’t want to go completely silent. I am slowly getting my ‘groove’ back… we are STILL not back in our home from Hurricane Harvey so it has taken its toll on me emotionally and my creative bug just isn’t ignited. But, this, too, is a part of PTSD…which is why I wanted to make sure and share this information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. June is PTSD Awareness month and I believe this is a diagnosis that is very misunderstood. The main misconception – it’s ONLY for military veterans. No. No, unfortunately it is often the diagnosis for ALL of us who have gone through ANY type of trauma. It has been my main diagnosis for therapy over the past 30 years.
With that said, take time to read about what PTSD is and be kind to those in your life that most likely suffer.
WHAT IS PTSD?
According to mental health professionals, post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is a mental condition that results in a series of emotional and physical reactions in individuals who have either witnessed or experienced a traumatic event.
WHO CAN SUFFER PTSD? (Common Misconceptions)
As the definition states – ANYONE can suffer PTSD who has experienced a traumatic event. Often the misconception behind the diagnosis is it is reserved for war-time veterans or military who have been in the trenches. YES, many of our heroes who come home from serving for us do suffer PTSD, but, unfortunately, the diagnosis is not reserved for them.
Harvey survivors, survivors of the floods and mudslides in California, survivors of the school shootings, survivors of domestic violence and sexual trauma, even an innocent bystander who is a first responder to a horrible car wreck can suffer PTSD.
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF PTSD?
- Physical Pain– PTDS will often begin with a series of common physical ailments—such as headaches or migraines, dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, breathing difficulties, and stomach and digestive issues.
- Nightmares or Flashbacks – a symptom known as re-experiencing—in which the patient suddenly and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in a repetitive manner. Re-experiencing can enter dreams or come on suddenly in waking images or sensations of physical and emotional pain and fear. It may cause both children and adult sufferers to have sleeping difficulties and anxiety leaving the safety of home.
- Depression or Anxiety – Mental phobias, which professionals deem as irrational and persistent fear and avoidance of certain objects or situations can cause extreme anxiety in PTSD sufferers to the point where it causes paranoia and depression.
- Withdrawal– Both adult and children PTSD patients with solid social lives and interests may suddenly lose interest in favorite hobbies, activities, and friends that they used to be very passionate about. Seeking out risky behavior can also be a form of escapism through drug or alcohol abuse, or thrill seeking.
- Avoidance– Avoidance of any physical or mental stimuli that reminds them of a past traumatic event. For example, those involved in tragic car collisions may avoid driving and commuting in a car whatsoever. It could also cause particular avoidances of places or people that remind them of the traumatic experience.
- Repression – The intentional blockage of memories associated with a past event or experience. The patient may destroy pictures or memorabilia of a time in their life or attempt to distract themselves by throwing themselves into work.
- Emotional Numbing– Numbing your feelings. After all, it’s hard to suffer pain when you don’t feel any emotion at all. Emotional numbing often leads to the gradual withdrawal and eventually the complete isolation from social circles.
- Hyper-Arousal– Suffer jitters so sever that it becomes impossible to relax due to the fear of threats. These individuals can be characterized as “on edge” and “jumpy” or easily frightened.
- Irritability – The state of constant fear and paranoia can cause extreme PTSD-associated irritability, indecisiveness, and a total lack of concentration, sleeplessness, and difficulty maintaining personal relationships.
- Guilt & Shame– Those PTSD patients who can’t get past their negative experience may find it difficult to move forward and maintain a healthy life. They may blame themselves and constantly relive the event, wondering how they could have prevented it. Often immense shame and guilt will set in if they blame themselves for the tragedy.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE WHO MIGHT BE SUFFERING PTSD
Help them find a therapist that fits and focus’ on PTSD treaments
Provide Emotional / Social Support
- Don’t pressure your loved one into talking
- Do ‘normal’ things with your loved one
- Let your loved one take the lead
- Mangage your own stress (the more relaxed, calm and focused you are the better for them)
- Be patient
- Educate yourself about PTSD
- Accept and expect mixed feelings
Rebuild Safety and Trust
- Create routines
- Keep your promises
- Encourage them to join a support group
Anticipate and Manage Triggers
- A trigger is anything—a person, place, thing, or situation—that reminds your loved one of the trauma and sets off a PTSD symptom, such as a flashback.
- It can be a sight, sound, touch or even a smell.
Important HOTLINES for those suffering PTSD:
24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health and Brain Injury -1-866-966-1020
SIDRAN Institute – A nonprofit organization that helps people understand, recover from, and treat traumatic stress. Includes a referral list of therapists for PTSD.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – This 24-hour U.S. hotline for anyone in emotional distress: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Call the Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or check out the Family-to-Family Education Program for caregivers of people with severe mental illness in the U.S
Read more about Shannon’s experiences in her memoirs’ EXPOSED and REDEEMED both available on Amazon.