Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with those who have seen active duty in the army or navy. Soldiers who have witnessed the death of others or been ordered to take the life of another often show signs of PTSD when they try to return to normal, civilian life. PTSD can wreak havoc with these soldiers’ emotional well-being, sometimes even causing them to lose their jobs and alienate their families. Many are scorned for not being “tough” and allowing feelings of remorse, fear, and anger to overtake them.
Unfortunately, PTSD isn’t something that’s confined only to the military. Anyone can suffer from PTSD at any age. A person can get PTSD if a family or friend is harmed or in danger. A sudden death can also cause PTSD, or witnessing a natural disaster.
Often, someone with PTSD won’t talk about their difficulties. However, there are some symptoms that a doctor or even a family member could watch out for to help screen for PTSD.
For example, nightmares can be common in those who have seen something frightening or terribly upsetting. These nightmares can cause significant problems with sleep quality.
Intrusive symptoms are also common. These occur when memories suddenly appear, disrupting emotions and feelings of safety. Sometimes called “flashbacks,” intrusive thoughts can make a person relive the trauma they experienced over and over again. During these episodes, secondary symptoms are likely to appear, such as a racing heart or sweating.
Avoidance is another common symptom. PTSD causes people to persistently avoid thoughts, feelings and even people or places that trigger memories of the original traumatic incident. People with PTSD can feel emotionally numb or struggle with intense feelings of guilt, depression, or anxiety. A person may also have trouble remembering the traumatic event.
Another common symptom of PTSD is an increasingly negative outlook about one’s personal life and self, as well as the world in general. PTSD affects a person’s mood in difficult and complex ways. PTSD may cause someone to lose interest in their favorite activities.
One final PTSD symptom that often manifests itself is irritable or aggressive behavior.
There is no easy way to treat PTSD—that’s the bad news. The good news is that the condition is always treatable, even if it takes a little time to sort things out. Get all the support you need. Take your time. Your body and mind will recover as soon as they are able. Be patient and do things that make you feel safe and keep you in the “present.” You may find that participating in sports, or doing some painting or writing helps, for example. Find the activities that work for you and make them a frequent part of your life. PTSD has been shown in numerous clinical trials to respond well to trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy. Get help with finding a good therapist.
“Family doctors diagnosing PTSD offered screening advice,” CBC News web site, Dec. 9, 2013; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/family-doctors-diagnosing-ptsd-offered-screening-advice-1.2456595, last accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
“What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?” National Institute of Mental Health web site; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml, last accessed Dec. 9, 2013.