There is Hope for Everyone Who Suffers from PTSD
Imagine living like this:
Every time you’re in a crowd, your throat tightens, and you feel like you can’t breathe. Your heart starts pounding…thump, thump, thump. And then comes the cold sweat, which runs down your face and stings your eyes.
When you hear any type of loud noise—even something as benign as a car horn honking—you startle.
Regardless of what you’re doing, including spending time with loved ones or working, your mind is haunted by distressing events you’ve experienced. You find yourself reliving them repeatedly in your mind, especially at night when you wish you could just get some sleep!
On some days, you feel too anxious to even leave your home.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, sexual assault, or bullying. It’s normal and even healthy to have upsetting memories, feel anxious, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic experience. But If symptoms persist for more than a few months, it may be PTSD.
Every year, the National Center for PTSD recognizes June as National PTSD Awareness Month. In this blog, Home Front Military Network hopes to shine a light on what can be a debilitating and distressing illness.
PTSD is not uncommon. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
However, this condition is even more common among veterans, and evidence suggests that they are especially at risk due to stressors associated with military service and combat, especially.
Consider the following:
- Between 11 and 20 percent of OEF or OIF veterans have PTSD per year.
- About 12 percent of Gulf War Veterans have PTSD per year.
- When the National Vietnam Veterans Adjustment study was done in the late 1980s (the most recent such study), 15 percent of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. It is estimated that about 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
So how do you know if you have PTSD?
Those who suffer from PTSD may find it impossible to do their job or perform day-to-day functions. Everyone experiences PTSD differently, but there are some common symptoms, such as:
- Feeling distressed by things that remind you of the traumatic event
- Vivid nightmares or flashbacks
- Loss of interest in things you used to care about
- Feeling emotionally isolated from others
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Startling easily
Reactions to PTSD can include excessive drinking or taking drugs to self-medicate, considering hurting yourself or someone else, or isolating yourself.
If you’re still not sure if you or a loved one has PTSD, the Veterans Administration offers a 17-question self-test for anyone, including civilians, active-duty personnel, and veterans.
Fortunately, PTSD is treatable! Research-based treatments include specific types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can help reframe negative thoughts, and exposure therapy in which the person with PTSD gains control by doing some of the things that they have avoided since the incident.
Medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin–Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors(SNRIs) are also effective for improving mood and quality of sleep.
What can you do?
Whether or not you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, one of the most beneficial things you can do in recognition of PTSD Awareness Month is to educate yourself about what it is and the symptoms, so you’ll know if you or someone you love has it, and spread the word about effective treatments available.
You can also sign up for the Virtual Walk held by the National Center for PTSD. You can take your 30-minute stroll anytime during the month.
Lastly, consider donating to an organization that works to help veterans with PTSD. Homefront Military Network and many of its partners work with veterans to help alleviate stressors and crises that can exacerbate PTSD.