We all go through stressful and traumatizing situations at different points in our lives, some more than others. If we didn’t have a means of coping, we would have all “shut down”. Though, people feel Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder which results from traumatic events, it really isn’t. PTSD is a form of defense mechanism the mind generates to enable us deal with normally unbearable events.
If we all experience traumatizing events at some point in our lives, why don’t we all have PTSD? It is reserved for severely traumatizing events such as wars, natural disasters, death of a loved one, personal trauma such as violence, rape or abuse etc. Other events that may lead to the development of PTSD include; mugging, robbery, military combat, being kidnapped or taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp, being diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or a car accident.
However, most people who have been involved in traumatizing events will not develop PTSD. Children (especially those less than ten) and adults, who experience non-assault based trauma such as accidents, are not likely to develop PTSD.
Think You Have PTSD?
Have you witnessed death, a serious injury or threat to yourself or another in which you felt fear, helplessness or powerlessness?
Do you have moments of disturbing recurring flashbacks and avoiding or numbing memories which have lasted for more than a month after a traumatic event?
Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?
Do you frequently have nightmares in which you are forced to relive a traumatizing episode?
Are you always irritable, on edge or find it difficult concentrating?
Do you have an exaggerated response when you are startled?
Do you have a physical response (increased heart rate for instance) to settings that remind you of a traumatic event?
Have most of the above been present for more than a month after the traumatic event? Then you most likely have PTSD.
There is also evidence to show that PTSD is hereditary, so if you have a loved one who has had it, chances are, you can have it too.
You are probably thinking, “Hey, some of those symptoms look very familiar?”
You’re right. That’s because some of the symptoms of PTSD are seen in some other psychological conditions like; panic attacks, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorder in general. The difference is these other conditions are not tied to traumatic events.
PTSD also co-exists sometimes with substance abuse especially when these individuals are trying to block out the memories. So, we understand that it’s just a defense mechanism; still it’s not a nice experience especially for an individual who has already gone through so much trauma.
How Long Can PTSD Possibly Last?
The duration of symptoms/disorder is variable. Some people recover completely within 3 months, whereas for others symptoms may persist for more than 12 months after the trauma. In some cases, symptoms may worsen and get better in cycles. Some people may develop psychosis. The disorder may be more severe or long lasting when the stressor is caused by another human being, e.g. torture/rape victims. Other factors may influence how long the disorder lasts, e.g. social support, family history, childhood experiences, personality, and history of mental illness.
How Then Do We Help Them Get Through It?
Support groups for those with similar experiences removes the sense of isolation and makes it easier for the individual to feel less alone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or anti-depressant medication may be helpful in some other cases.
If you need to know more about PTSD, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will offer you as much support as you may need.