June is PTSD Awareness Month. That’s important for a lot of different reasons, for as you’ll see below a troubling number of people in the United States and around the world are suffering from this mental health condition that can be debilitating if it’s not treated promptly and properly. PTSD symptoms may seem relatively benign for some at first, and they are often mistaken for some other issue. That’s perhaps the main reason that this month is so important, as we all need to recognize PTSD symptoms and respond accordingly.
SoCal Empowered is an Orange County PTSD treatment facility, and we work with people struggling with this challenging disease every day. In furtherance of what we believe should b e a collective awareness effort, we’re going to lay out some facts regarding PTSD symptoms, PTSD statistics and other information in hopes that some people will form a deeper understanding of what could be happening with a friend or loved one and then help them get the help they need as soon as possible.
Before getting into PTSD symptoms, it may be helpful to provide an overview of what it actually is and its history. According to the National Institutes of Health, the condition known in long form as post-traumatic stress disorder is something that develops in some people who have experienced shocking, terrifying and/or dangerous events in their lives. These experiences initially spark a fight-or-flight response within the central nervous system, and this is something that’s present inside of all of us. People who continue to experience episodes of terror long after that traumatic event or events are often diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD – A Brief History of Terms
PTSD did not become an official or accepted term until 1980, but the condition has been around for much longer. It’s safe to assume that PTSD has existed since the beginning of humanity in one form or another, although the earliest attempts to name it trace back to the 17th Century. According to the History Channel, Swiss physician Dr. Johannes Hofer coined the phrase “nostalgia” for soldiers who suffered from despair, homesickness, sleeplessness and anxiety.
Moving ahead to the Civil War in the United States, the term nostalgia was used, but others started referring to those suffering from it as people with feeble wills who needed to be mocked to get past it. Fortunately, that didn’t last too long, and after the Civil War the term “soldier’s heart” took hold.
Finally, in the 20th Century and largely because of more wars, soldiers who presented PTSD symptoms after World War I were told they were suffering from “shell shock.” After World War II, those who were dealing with PTSD symptoms were said to have contracted “battle fatigue” before the modern term was finally adopted.
Clearly, PTSD has long been associated with soldiers who experience combat, and that makes sense given the terrible and terrifying circumstances those people had to endure for long periods of time. However, anyone can experience PTSD symptoms after a trauma, and trauma can include any type of serious danger or risk.
As such, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has published statistics relating to the overall population of the United States. These statistics indicate that approximately 8 percent of the American population suffers from PTSD at some point in their lives, and that 8 million adults suffer from PTSD in any given year.
Not only are those numbers likely higher now given the pandemic that’s taken place since these statistics were released, but even looking at the previous number, 8 million people is roughly the equivalent of the population of New York City. That’s a troubling way to look at the prevalence of PTSD and PTSD symptoms.
Common PTSD Symptoms
Given that anyone can suffer from PTSD after a traumatic event, it’s important that as many people as possible understand common PTSD symptoms. In order to be diagnosed, someone must suffer from PTSD symptoms for at least one month, although those PTSD symptoms may not initially arise for months or even years after the traumatic event occurs.
Common examples of PTSD symptoms fall into four categories, and a person must experience each of these in some form for that one-month period:
- Reexperiencing PTSD Symptoms – These include some type of flashbacks or dreams related to the traumatic event.
- Avoidance PTSD Symptoms – Staying away from a place or avoiding thoughts that remind people of the traumatic event.
- Arousal and Reactivity PTSD Symptoms – PTSD sufferers will experience regular bouts of high tension, stress or fear.
- Cognition and Mood Symptoms – PTSD sufferers will express negative, fearful, distorted or otherwise troubling thoughts about themselves, others or the world in general.
The National Institutes of Health has a more detailed breakdown for your review, but the bottom line is that the specific PTSD symptoms someone experiences can vary. However, people close to someone who has this disease will likely realize that something is wrong.
Helping Someone With PTSD Symptoms
Unfortunately, given the challenges associated with recognizing PTSD symptoms, helping someone get treatment can be equally difficult. HelpGuide.org has a good set of recommendations for you to review, but overall you need to approach the person suffering from PTSD symptoms, and you need to do so in the right way.
You’ll need to let the person know that you’re concerned that something is wrong, but you should not try to dominate any discussion that follows. Let the person experiencing PTSD symptoms steer the conversation or conversations if more than one is necessary, and make sure you focus on listening before calmly and caringly recommending a course of action. Stay with it if that’s what’s needed, but don’t judge and don’t push too hard.
If you’re really concerned about someone close to you whom you believe is suffering from PTSD symptoms, you can always reach out to our team of professionals at SoCal Empowered. Our Orange County PTSD treatment approach has worked with a lot of people, and it starts well before someone comes to see us on an inpatient basis.
We listen to what you have to say before recommending what needs to be done. If your situation is not a fit for our program, we will help you find the right resource for your situation. If we feel that you are in need of our help, we will discuss the circumstances with your insurance carrier so that you can have a clear idea of what you’re committing to before you move forward.
It all starts with a conversation. Contact us today to learn more about what needs to happen.