ALMOST everyone experiences or witnesses something scary, shocking or dangerous events or situations. People react in different ways. It is natural for people to continue to feel upset or scare after the stressful event.
Some would shrug it off after a few weeks, or even months but there are others whose life would be turn upside down. If the experience would upset a person and may cause mental problems for six months or more, he or she may have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A psychiatrist may diagnose the disorder.
June is PTSD Awareness Month in America and June 27 is PTSD Day!
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, to be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least one month:
• At least one re-experiencing symptom
• At least one avoidance symptom
• At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
• At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms include:
• Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
• Bad dreams
• Frightening thoughts
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. The symptoms can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
Avoidance symptoms include:
• Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
• Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
• Being easily startled
• Feeling tense or “on edge”
• Having difficulty sleeping
• Having angry outburst
Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. These symptoms can make the person feel stressed and angry. They may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
Cognition and mood symptoms include:
• Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
• Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
• Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
• Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or worsen after the traumatic event, but are not due to injury or substance use. These symptoms can make the person feel alienated or detached from friends or family members.
Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months, even years.
These traumatic situations may be witnessing death, survivors of natural or manmade disasters.
Lately, our country has been experiencing stressful situations. PTSD can be prevented.
Here are some ways to help cope:
• Talking to family and friends can help.
• Finding support after the traumatic event
• Have a healthy hobby or any activity that will make you feel good
• Praying helps
• Seek professional help (psychologist or psychiatrist) if one cannot cope with what happened.
Mental health advocates are encouraged to talk and share about PTSD for awareness and to reach out to those who are in need of help.