Understanding PTSD and its impact
Experiencing trauma in life is not rare. About six out of ten men and five out of ten women experience at least one trauma in their lives. For some people, a traumatic experience may be so painful or triggering that it interrupts function in daily life. Unresolved trauma can severely impact one’s psyche, and if left unresolved for more than 30 days, it may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“PTSD is a mental health condition that appears as the result of living through an unresolved traumatic event or a threatening situation that impacts a person’s ability to cope or function,” says Ron Masters, therapist at Centerstone. “Traumatic events include natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault, domestic abuse, mass shootings, war, and many more.”
Symptoms of PTSD may look different from person to person. Examples may include a lack of interest in hobbies or activities, developing other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and an increase in shifts in mood and behavior.
Those living through traumatic events may experience significant clinical distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of life.
“Many cases of untreated PTSD may lead to other developments of generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, depression, substance use, and dissociative symptoms such as flashbacks,” says Masters.
Individuals with PTSD typically re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks, thoughts or recollections, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts. Some experience PTSD through emotional numbness or avoidance, increased arousal, anger, or difficulty with sleeping and concentration.
“When I see PTSD in people, it looks heavy. Many people with PTSD are very anxious—all of these symptoms create a lot of anxiety,” says Lisa Eggebeen, regional director of Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone. “They may fear being in traffic or running into a particular person or a particular thing happening. People with PTSD tend to often be on guard, and it’s very tiring and isolating.”
PTSD and Soldiers:
PTSD is common among soldiers and veterans, affecting 12-20 percent of them. This is often related to traumatic events witnessed or directly experienced during combat.
Research suggests that the psychological toll of deployments (many involving prolonged exposures to combat-related stress over multiple rotations) may be higher than the physical injuries of combat.
Concerns most recently centered on two combat-related injuries: PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Recent reports have referred to these as the signature wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
Here are some ways to help:
- Educate yourself. Learn the symptoms of PTSD and identify the triggers and warning signs. Share your knowledge about PTSD and therapy with your families and communities.
- Practice self-care. Self-care is important and necessary for those who struggle with mental health, but it is also just as important for family members, too. Set aside time for self-care—whether it is engaging in leisure activities, meditating or spending time with friends.
- Manage behaviors. Understand that coping and minimizing symptoms will take time. Try some grounding practices to ease any overwhelming feelings and emotions. Grounding practices engage the senses, train the brain and assist in self-soothing. Use techniques like deep-breathing, lighting a candle for the smell, playing a memory game or using the 5-4-3-2-1 method (list five things you hear, four things you see, three things you can touch, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste).
- Set goals. Set both short and long-term goals for managing and overcoming PTSD. Count the victories in incremental steps in the journey of PTSD recovery.
- Seek support. Talk with a counselor for guidance and support. The goal of treatment is to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms of PTSD, improve daily functioning, and help individuals cope with the traumatic event that triggered the disorder.
PTSD is challenging to go through alone, and if it becomes overwhelming, other support systems are available. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of PTSD, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) for more information.