PTSD Awareness Month
It’s useless to dwell on an experience that’s over and done with; yet some people genuinely can’t help it. You’ve no doubt heard of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), with its flashbacks, tormenting memories, and overpowering anxiety. It’s most often recognized in former military combatants, but survivors of other traumatic incidents can experience it too.
History of PTSD Awareness
While the official term “post-traumatic stress disorder” dates back only to 1980, trauma’s potential to make a permanent mark has been recognized for centuries: ancient literature tells of soldiers reliving battles in their nightmares. Still, PTSD victims have frequently been misunderstood, marginalized, and dubbed weak or cowardly. This can be especially painful for those whose trauma was tied to chemical addiction (threats and abuse from drug-involved contacts, DUI accidents, financial struggles, fear of discovery), since most people with addiction disorder already face considerable “you could stop if you wanted to” stigma.
Thankfully, PTSD and addiction (along with other mental/behavioral disorders) are increasingly recognized as treatable illnesses rather than character flaws. The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was created in 1989 within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; June was officially designated the annual PTSD Awareness Month in 2014.
Symptoms of PTSD
Around 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from PTSD in a typical year. Sadly, more than 20 percent of people who suffer trauma will also consider or attempt suicide—which means that PTSD awareness can not only reduce suffering but save lives.
Not everyone who suffers a traumatic incident develops PTSD. Most survivors of battle, disaster, or violent crime will be visibly shaken in the aftermath and “jumpy” for some weeks afterward. However, it can indicate mental disorder if the following symptoms persist after five or more weeks:
- Inability to forget the incident for even brief periods
- Recurring nightmares
- Flashbacks (seeming to go into a trance while mentally reliving the incident)
- Memory blackouts
- Taking extreme measures to avoid situations or people associated with the original trauma
- Chronic pessimism, especially if it involves change in former thinking habits
- Losing interest in former relationships or activities
- Being constantly on edge
- Turning to alcohol or other drugs to “cope”
- Survivor’s guilt, especially if accompanied by such comments as, “I don’t deserve to live”
Be aware of, and watch for, these PTSD symptoms if you or someone close to you suffers a traumatic incident. If symptoms surface, don’t wait and hope it will pass: seek professional help.
PTSD Awareness in Tough Situations
Not all cases of PTSD are easy to recognize. Symptoms may be denied or deliberately hidden. The disorder may surface long after the traumatic incident, making the connection harder to recognize. Or the original trauma may be unknown, perhaps forgotten even by the sufferer.
If you notice symptoms akin to those listed above—or any other negative changes in behavior—talk to a therapist even if you can’t pinpoint a specific trigger. And if you experience a traumatic incident (or, worse, an ongoing traumatic situation such as domestic abuse), don’t wait to see if PTSD will develop: remove yourself from any further danger, and get counseling to help you heal properly. Take special care of yourself for a month or two, getting extra rest and not taking on any new challenges. PTSD awareness also includes knowing when the disorder might develop, and how to reduce the risk.
And if someone else shows PTSD symptoms but refuses to seek help, don’t argue, which will only push them away and make the situation worse. Talk to a counselor yourself, for advice on how you can help and how you can stay aware of new developments.
PTSD is treatable. Awareness does make a difference. Your willingness to get involved could save a life.
Help and Healing for Trauma
In addition to drug addiction detox, Beach House provides integrated trauma treatment and care for psychiatric disorders. You don’t have to let a long-past experience continue to torment you. Contact us today to learn how you or a loved one can benefit from combined treatment for PTSD and addiction.