Everyone goes through hell at some point in life. Whether it be abuse, war, or an accident, deplorable things happen. We all go through them, but sometimes the after effects of trauma can be as hard as the trauma itself and can result in post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Here are seven things you should know about PTSD.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental illness that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Such events can include war, car crashes, rape or sexual assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, abuse, or other harmful events.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, avoidance of places, difficulty sleeping, jumpiness, increased anger, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, increased arousal, or depletion in sex drive. They are vast and diverse, depending on the person they affect.
A popular example of this can be found in shows and movies such as Iron Man 3 and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark experiences panic attacks, and flashbacks, as well as other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy experiences flashbacks increased aggression, jumpiness, and paranoia.
Do you have to have all the symptoms to really have PTSD?
No, PTSD can come in many forms. You can have all the symptoms, or only have one or two. Everyone’s reaction to trauma is different. Just because you don’t have the exact symptoms listed above doesn’t mean your illness is fake. For instance, both Tony Stark and Kimmy Schmidt are represented to have post-traumatic stress disorder, but their symptoms, reactions, and coping mechanisms aren’t the same. Just because your PTSD comes in a unique form, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.
I thought only soldiers got PTSD?
No, PTSD can definitely come from being in an active war zone, but it doesn’t have to. More people have PTSD than you’d think. According to The Sidran Institute, around 70 percent of American’s experience trauma in their life and 20 percent of them develop post-traumatic stress disorder. That means more than 13 million people deal with symptoms of PTSD in the United States.
What’s the difference between a disorder and regular stress?
Post-traumatic stress disorder happens after trauma. Regular stress can happen at any time. However, a person might develop an anxiety disorder without going through something terrible. The difference between PTSD, an anxiety disorder, and normal stress is the level for which it affects a person’s life. It is the same between being eccentric and being mentally ill. Mental health professionals can make a diagnosis on their own, but one helpful tool is to look at the four D’s.
What are the four D’s?
The four D’s of psychological disorder are danger, deviance, dysfunction, and distress. Deviance looks at if the reaction to the stress differs from social norms. Dysfunction is when the stress interferes with a person’s life. Distress measures how much a person is interpersonally affected, and danger looks at the chance of a person hurting themselves and/or others.
The difference between regular stress, and PTSD or another anxiety disorder is the extent to which the stress fits into these categories. If your stress causes deviant behavior, interferes with your life, causes you mental anguish, and/or can lead to you or others getting hurt, then you may have PTSD or another anxiety disorder. PTSD and other anxiety disorders differ, because of their cause. A psychologist would diagnose someone with PTSD over another anxiety disorder when the anxiety was caused by a dangerous event.
What are triggers?
Triggers are people, places, or things that remind a person of their trauma and inflame symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They can be songs, pictures, places, people, or any number of things. Triggers can range from where a car crash happened, to hearing an abuser’s favorite song. These triggers can sound silly, but if a person is exposed to their trigger, there can be severe consequences. For instance, suicidal tendencies are common among people who struggle with PTSD, and being exposed to a trigger can result in a person taking their own life. That is why it is important to respect another person’s trigger.
If a person doesn’t want to go somewhere or ask that you tag certain things online, so that they may avoid it, you must respect that. The difference between mocking a trigger you think is dumb and recognizing it, could be the difference between life and death.
What can I do if myself of a loved one is struggling with PTSD?
The best thing to do when struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder is to reach out for professional help. However, if you cannot afford that, there are other options such as help sights and support groups.
If you or a loved one is struggling with any of the symptoms listed above, below, I left links and numbers to help sights and hotlines. Remember PTSD is a real disorder that affects a diverse group of people all over the world. A lot of people struggle with it, but a lot of people heal. There is hope. You just have to know where to find it.
For Veterans: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/where-to-get-help.asp
For Everyone: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-symptoms-self-help-treatment.htm
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet.” Sidran.org, www.sidran.org/resources/for-survivors-and-loved-ones/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-fact-sheet-2/.
“PTSD: National Center for PTSD.” Negative Coping and PTSD – PTSD: National Center for PTSD, 1 Jan. 2007, www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/basics/what-is-ptsd.asp.
“Symptoms of PTSD.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms.
T Davis. “Conceptualizing Psychiatric Disorders Using “Four D’s” of Diagnoses”. The Internet Journal of Psychiatry. 2009 Volume 1 Number 1.