Recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that stems from exposure to or being witness to a traumatic event. Anyone can suffer from PTSD, not just military war veterans.  Often post traumatic stress disorder will go untreated because the person suffering with the condition does not seek help.  According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on average, approximately 7% -8% of American civilians will experience post traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime, while a staggering 30% of combat veterans will be diagnosed with the condition after spending time in a war zone.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms that indicate the presence of post traumatic stress disorder and the need for treatment.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD symptoms can vary based on an individuals experience, but there are common symptoms seen in the majority of PTSD sufferers.

Post traumatic stress disorder can disrupt the sufferers’ life, resulting in the illusion that the world around them is no longer a safe place.  They may begin to see threats where there really are none, causing the person suffering with the disorder to avoid certain people, places and events altogether; overall, becoming more isolated and paranoid.

Individuals with PTSD often have flashbacks of the event that forces them to relive the traumatic experience repeatedly.  The sound of a car backfiring may sound like a gunshot, causing someone with PTSD to react in a way that is inappropriate for the current situation. Friends and family members may become seen as untrustworthy or out to get the one suffering with post traumatic stress disorder. This can cause problems in relationships as well as problems at work.  For example, many veterans, returning from war, have difficulty returning to “normal” family life and relationships; causing marriages, friendships, and parenting roles struggle.  Oftentimes those with PTSD are rendered unable to work and are forced to live off of disability benefits.

“Numbness” toward the outside world is another symptom of post traumatic stress disorder.  A dismal outlook on the entirety of one’s life often occurs because of the effects of PTSD lead the sufferer down a road of emotional pain and withdrawal, where a loss of interest in life is experienced.  Those with PTSD may view their life as not having a lot of time left (shortened lifespan), therefore, they see no reason to attempt to plan for the future.

Hyperarousal is a symptom that causes the sufferer to be extra vigilant in observing their surroundings.  The level of stress related to this symptom can cause angry and violent outbursts, blackouts, difficulty with remembering things and an overload of sensory perception that causes a great deal of distress to the one suffering from PTSD.  People who are experiencing these symptoms may retreat from normal activity to avoid over reactions and the distress that these situations cause.

Nightmares are a big, reoccurring problem for post traumatic stress disorder sufferers.  The events are relived through dreams and cause the person to wake up in a state of panic, sometimes unaware of where that they are.  Even years after the traumatic event, these nightmares can plague the sufferer with terrible memories and cause an inability to get much needed rest.  This can be a major problem for married couples, as the sufferer may not even recognize their spouse when they are first awoken from the nightmares. Someone with PTSD should never be woken up in a startling fashion, as this could cause a flashback and turn a normal situation into one of panic and distress.

PTSD: Living a Nightmare

Many people, who have never experienced a traumatic experience or don’t suffer from PTSD, cannot and will not ever fully understand the living nightmares that PTSD victims deal with every day.  If you have a friend or loved one, who suffers from PTSD, try to be patient.  Encourage therapy, but also consider seeking counseling or support for yourself.  Recovering from PTSD can be a lifelong process that effects everyone.