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PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

It’s Not Just Veterans



National Institute of Mental Health:




Anxiety & Depression Association of America:




National Institute of Mental Health

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

    When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.

    PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

    PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.


Signs & Symptoms

PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts.

    Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.


2. Avoidance symptoms

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.


    Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.


3. Hyperarousal symptoms

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.

    Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

    It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.


Who Is At Risk?

    PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and there is some evidence that susceptibility to the disorder may run in families.

    Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters, and many other serious events.

    Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD.


Why do some people get PTSD and other people do not?

    It is important to remember that not everyone who lives through a dangerous event gets PTSD. In fact, most will not get the disorder.

    Many factors play a part in whether a person will get PTSD. Some of these are risk factors that make a person more likely to get PTSD. Other factors, called resilience factors, can help reduce the risk of the disorder. Some of these risk and resilience factors are present before the trauma and others become important during and after a traumatic event.

Risk factors for PTSD include:

  • Living through dangerous events and traumas
  • Having a history of mental illness
  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing people hurt or killed
  • Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
  • Having little or no social support after the event
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home.

Resilience factors that may reduce the risk of PTSD include:

  • Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family
  • Finding a support group after a traumatic event
  • Feeling good about one’s own actions in the face of danger
  • Having a coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it
  • Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear.

    Researchers are studying the importance of various risk and resilience factors. With more study, it may be possible someday to predict who is likely to get PTSD and prevent it.




Getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    Recovering from PTSD involves helping your nervous system return to its pre-trauma state of balance. As discussed above, the best way to regulate your nervous system is through social engagement—interacting with another human being—be it a loved one, a friend, or a professional therapist. However, as someone with PTSD, you need to first become “unstuck” and move out of the immobilization stress response.

    While this process is easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist or doctor, you don’t need to wait for a medical appointment to start feeling better. There are plenty of things you can do now to help yourself cope with symptoms, reduce anxiety and fear, and take back control of your life.


PTSD Self-Help Tips                                             (See the website for more details)

1)  Get moving.  (spending time in nature)

2)  Connect with others.

3)  Challenge your sense of helplessness.

4)  Take care of yourself.


Helping someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    If a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder, it can take a heavy toll on your relationship and family life. It can be hard to understand why your loved one won’t open up to you—why he or she is less affectionate and more volatile. The symptoms of PTSD can also result in job loss, substance abuse, and other stressful problems.

    Letting your family member’s PTSD dominate your life while ignoring your own needs is a surefire recipe for burnout. In order to take care of your loved one, you first need to take care of yourself. It’s also helpful to learn all you can about PTSD. The more you know about the symptoms and treatment options, the better equipped you'll be to help your loved one and keep things in perspective.


Tips for helping a loved one with PTSD

     Be patient and understanding. Getting better takes time so be patient with the pace of recovery and offer a sympathetic ear. A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on.

    Try to anticipate and prepare for PTSD triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the trauma; and certain sights, sounds, or smells. If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to offer your support and help your loved one calm down.

    Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally. Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include emotional numbness, anger, and withdrawal. If your loved one seems distant, irritable, or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

    Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. It is often very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their traumatic experiences. For some, it can even make things worse. Never try to force your loved one to open up. Let the person know, however, that you’re there when and if he or she wants to talk.


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As much information as there is about PTSD, no one ever lists, "Having your soul sucked out of you" and "Having your entire identity and meaning of life vanish" as symptoms.

I really don't want to talk about the details of what happened. The small amount I've shared already has only served to make me feel disconnected from people and embarrassed and ashamed.

My therapist is really, really good about this, and he helps me to focus on my feelings and behaviors (CBT) that result from day-to-day life and triggers. But he's horribly overworked, and I can only get in to see him about once a month. My last appointment was canceled because of the weather, and I'm so busy, I forgot to reschedule. Who knows how long I have to wait now? I need a parent to help me. I need a guardian or something. I thought about hiring a trustee, but that's likely expensive. As strange as it sounds, because of someone I know, I'd actually feel comfortable with that as a result of her connections. Or even a case manager in social services. I'm appalled at the lack of services for someone who's been through this. This issue is only going to get worse. Someone needs to step up to the plate and help us.

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I agree.  It can completely destroy your sense of self and make one wish again, for a soul. 

You can't call out at work because of a panic attack.

You can't cancel on a friend because of PTSD

No one asks if you've had any flashbacks lately, or how is therapy going.

It's an invisible, shameful existence. 

I'm glad you have a good therapist, if only once a month. It would be nice to have some sort of guardian for support because it never goes away,  you just navigate thru it all your life.   In my area there aren't any support groups, and my "case manager" is someone who asks me a list of questions once a year.  If it's any consolation at all,  I'm sorry you have to deal with everything that goes with PTSD and I know how hard it can be.

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Thank you. It is a consolation. 🙂 

Some areas are better equipped with resources than others, that's for sure. I had PTSD before, and the place where I lived had more resources, and people were less afraid of it. It wasn't so stigmatized. This area is ingrown and backward in so many ways, which is disturbing. I'm not ashamed of having it at all. I'm embarrassed by why I have it. I did go to an intensive outpatient treatment program last year, but it didn't help at the time. I wouldn't mind trying another one - a better one - but I don't have insurance.

In the past, I would've just started my own support group, but I don't have the time or solid ground under my feet to do that now.

It has gotten better. I'm not suicidal. I have much, much more hope now. Inside, though, I've had an angry man running around telling me bad things about myself. It could be worse. The depression on top of it is a huge problem. Getting out of bed is too hard to do almost every day now. I'm less motivated to work on my schoolwork. More distracted than the beginning of the semester. I think it's because I've started taking more risks, and the dust needs to settle.

I'm trying to let the dust settle before I stir it up again. Last night, for example, I panicked and lost a lot of time to it. I was tempted to post here about it, but I knew that if I did, I'd just stir up more. That time, I was able to refrain, but admittedly, it's because one of the posts here triggered me, too. I'd normally exercise to discharge that electricity, but I'm in pain right now and can't easily do that.

I'm tired of feeling like a burden, not only to others, but also to myself. I'm working on making my life look more like it did before this happened. I'm sure it'll help. I just don't know how much. 

Thanks again. 🙂 

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You are very welcome!  I thought of starting a group as well.  But at this point I don't have the energy or motivation. 

Feeling burdensome is a tough one.  It's such an uncomfortable subject that you want to spare even your closest friends.  Hang on to your hope! :Coopwink:

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