Identifying PTSD

Since 2002, over 100,000 military service members have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person is involved or witness to a life-threatening or terrifying event.  This can be anything from combat to rape to an automobile accident.  Most people who have gone through a traumatic event will have stress related reactions afterward.  This is common and to be expected.  However, not everyone who endures a traumatic event has or develops PTSD.  Roughly 30% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War veterans, 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, and 11% of veterans from the war in Afghanistan have developed PTSD.  The biggest percentage of our service members and veterans do not suffer from PTSD.

How do I know if I have PTSD?

The process of identifying and diagnosing PTSD can vary from person to person.  There are several common symptoms that typically arise in those facing this issue. Even if you or your loved one has been screened for PTSD in the past, it may be valuable to reassess the situation since symptoms of PTSD often develop or worsen over time.

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional numbing
  • Avoiding activities once enjoyed
  • Hopelessness about future
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding thoughts and discussions about traumatic events
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Hyper-vigilance and/or easily startled
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Heightened stress levels
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unprovoked fear or distress
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts

Why can’t I just ‘get over it’?

If a person suffering from PTSD could simply “get over it”, they would.  PTSD is not just remembering the trauma over and over.  It is a painful and disruptive issue that plagues not only service members and veterans, but civilians as well.  It causes physical changes in the brain and body that bring a wide range of symptoms.

What do I do now that I think I may have PTSD?

Once you or your loved one recognizes the signs and symptoms of PTSD, the next step is choosing to seek care. This is often a difficult decision for a number of reasons. Many people resist seeking help out of fear of being thought of as weak or that others may lose confidence in them. A person dealing with PTSD may also convince themselves that treatments will be ineffective or will cause side effects. Despite these reservations, it is important for someone suffering from PTSD to get help. Without treatment, PTSD does not get better and in some cases it can worsen. Treatment is important at any stage regardless of whether you or your loved one has been suffering for months or years. It’s never too late to reach out for help.

Can Centerstone Military Services help me or my loved one?

Yes, we can.  Centerstone Military Services serves everyone whose lives are impacted by military service including Veterans from all Active Duty and Reserve components (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines) – regardless of discharge status. We also offer programs and services for immediate and extended family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues of those who have served. You do not have to be in a current crisis to call or email us for help.  Simply call 866.781.8010, available 24/7, or email our counseling line at MilitaryService@centerstone.org to get the process started.

Further Reading – because understanding is half the battle.

What is PTSD
Partners of veterans with PTSD
PTSD – The Mayo Clinic
PTSD Symptoms: How Trauma Affects the Brain