For PTSD Awareness Day, let's promote more understanding of this challenging diagnosis.
After World War I and World War II, returning veterans first brought attention to PTSD. At the time, it was vaguely called shell shock or battle fatigue. Since then, behavioral health care professionals have identified the problem, its causes and ways to resolve it.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event. Causes can include something that occurred in the person's life; something that occurred in the life of a loved one; or something the person witnessed. For example:
- serious accidents (like car or train crashes);
- violent personal attacks;
- natural disasters;
- unnatural disasters (bombings, shootings);
- childhood abuse; and
- military combat.
It's healthy for anyone who experiences significant trauma to feel the aftermath. Yet the same event can (and does) upset people differently. If symptoms don't get better within a month, it's a good idea to be evaluated for PTSD by a licensed behavioral health care professional.
What PTSD Feels Like
People with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb. Yet when they experience situations that remind them of the traumatic event, it causes extreme emotional, mental and physical distress. The effects include persistent, terrifying thoughts and memories. Some repeatedly relive the ordeal as nightmares and flashbacks. PTSD sufferers may also experience:
- sleep problems;
- feeling jittery or “on guard”;
- being easily startled;
- loss of interest in things they used to enjoy;
- trouble feeling affectionate;
- difficulty with working or socializing;
- irritability, feeling more aggressive than before; and
- avoiding certain places or situations that bring back memories.
For military personnel, issues with PTSD often surface stateside. This affects not only the veteran, but also family members. Military service members and their loved ones can find help at the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families in Bay Shore (a joint effort between the North Shore-LIJ Health System and the Northport VA Medical Center). The Rosen Wellness Center for Law Enforcement and Military Personnel and Their Families serves police and military service members, veterans and their loved ones.
PTSD symptoms may look like other conditions, so always consult a behavioral health care professional for the correct diagnosis. Since combat veterans have highlighted the issue, more and more clinicians are learning to treat it. Be sure to ask about a behavioral health care provider's specialties directly or via your insurance carrier.