Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) used to be thought of as something only soldiers experience. While we do see high rates of PTSD among combat soldiers, anyone can experience PTSD following a traumatic experience. Examples of events leading to trauma include: sexual assault (the highest rates of PTSD result from sexual assault), military combat, domestic violence, childhood abuse, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, scenes emergency and critical care response teams are called to, serious car accidents, and animal attacks. While the events leading to PTSD vary greatly, the symptoms are the same. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing (reliving the experience): includes flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive images, thoughts and perceptions, and reacting physiologically when reminded of the event (triggered)
  • Hyper-arousal (feeling “keyed up”): includes difficulty falling or staying asleep, suddenly becoming angry or irritable, fearing for one’s safety and always feeling on guard, becoming very startled and “over-reacting” when surprised by someone, and trouble concentrating
  • Avoiding and Numbing: includes avoiding people, places, and situations as well as avoiding thoughts, feelings, and conversations that remind the person of the experience, feeling detached from others, having a sense of a foreshortened future, having a restricted range of affect (emotions and feelings), and a decreased interest in activities the person once enjoyed
  • Other concerns: may include feelings of hopelessness, shame, and despair, survivors’ guilt, problems keeping a job or becoming a “workaholic,” problems maintaining interpersonal relationships, and/or the use of alcohol or drugs to numb thoughts and feelings of the experience
PTSD may leave the person feeling “broken” or somehow “damaged.” The more the person feels this way, the more he or she may withdraw from others and further isolate themselves. The good news is that there is help for PTSD, even if it has been years or decades since the person experienced the trauma. If you or someone you know is showing signs or symptoms of PTSD, encourage them to seek help. Asking for help does not mean the person is “weak,” “crazy,” or “broken.” It actually takes strength and courage to reach out and ask for help. PTSD is treatable, and the result is often an increase in quality of life.