by Jessica Yaffa, BA, CPC
Many of us relate Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to soldiers who have experienced combat and the profound aftermath of war. However, PTSD doesn’t only affect our heroes coming off the battlefield. It is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to any traumatic event, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, severe physical injury, witnessing death, or other perceived threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year. Given the prevalence of this diagnosis, it’s important that both those who are suffering, as well as loved ones, understand not only the complexities surrounding PTSD, but also where and how to seek support.
Traumatic events catalyze the body into a fight-or-flight mode. It’s very physiological — your heart races, you go into survival mode until the body gets a safety signal and starts to shut down the physiological response. But for people who develop PTSD, their physiology will remain activated just below the threshold, so when they have reminders of the event, their biology cranks up as if they were engaging in fight-or-flight. While another person might remember that they felt fear, a person with PTSD relives the fear response in their brain and body.
PTSD is a disorder that is treatable. Whether you are a person suffering from PTSD, or a loved one of someone who is being affected by PTSD and the related symptoms, please know you aren’t alone. While many people will recover without intervention, if you or your loved one is in a situation where daily functioning related to sleep, work, relationships, and the ability to experience joy/connection is being affected, it may be time to seek help from a professional.
Haven Hills Recovery specializes in the treatment of trauma and the manifestation of associated symptoms, including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and substance misuse. Please consider reaching out to our team for support once you’ve identified that additional help may be warranted.