Often, the anniversary of a traumatic event can bring about several days or weeks of anxiety, fear, nightmares, depression and flashbacks.
Traumatic events can include tornadoes, plane crashes, murders, school shootings, car accidents, the death of a loved one, assaults, abuse or any other negative event that has a significant impact on one or more people.
Not all survivors or witnesses of a traumatic event experience an anniversary reaction, but for those who do, it is important to recognize when the lingering stress has become too disruptive in one’s life.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a traumatic event.
In terms of PTSD, trauma can have a variety of meanings and have quite an impact on a person’s life. PTSD can interfere with daily tasks by hindering interest in otherwise pleasurable activities and events.
Who can be Diagnosed with PTSD?
To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must be present for more than one month, and the traumatic event must cause significant clinical distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of life.
What are Some Signs of PTSD?
Complications can result from untreated PTSD, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, major depression, substance abuse and problems with health, career and relationships. According to research, a person who has been traumatized before is more likely to develop PTSD after a second trauma.
Individuals with PTSD typically experience persistent recurrence of the traumatic event. They experience intrusive thoughts, mental images and/or disturbing dreams recalling the traumatic event. Some people may experience illusions or flashbacks as if the traumatic event is reoccurring.
Any reminders of the trauma can be distressing. Avoiding anything symbolic of the event becomes a priority.
People can also have post-traumatic stress from a previous event, but they may not be aware of it until after a new trauma occurs.
It is common for individuals with PTSD to be alert, yet unable to concentrate. PTSD can cause people to act extremely watchful to protect themselves from danger. Constant worry, anxiety, becoming easily startled and even frequent panic attacks may be common. For some people, falling asleep and staying asleep can be difficult. Rage, extreme irritability and intense agitation are also symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD and Soldiers
PTSD affects 1 out of 4 soldiers and veterans.
In a recent report from the Center for Military Health Policy Research, early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of deployments (many involving prolonged exposures to combat-related stress over multiple rotations) may be higher compared with the physical injuries of combat.
Concerns most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Recent reports have referred to these as the signature wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
With increasing concern about the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise.
What can I Do to Help?
- Educate yourself. Learn the symptoms of PTSD and identify the triggers and warning signs. Knowledge and acceptance are the first steps in recovery.
- Reduce stress. Find anxiety-reducing techniques such as prayer, meditation, exercise, yoga, deep breathing or spending time with close friends and family.
- Manage behaviors. Practice anger control and conflict-resolution skills.
- Practice patience. Learn to forgive yourself. Learn new things. Set both short- and long-term goals. Acknowledge your accomplishments. Count your victories in the battle of PTSD recovery in incremental steps.
- Seek support. Talk with a counselor for direction and support. The goal of treatment is to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms of PTSD, to improve daily functioning and to help individuals cope with the traumatic event that triggered the disorder.
Help for Veterans
Every day, veterans and their families struggle with the mental and physical scars uniquely earned through military service. The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone was created to support this selfless population by ensuring they receive the care they deserve at little to no cost.