By Joel Williams
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as combat, a natural disaster, a car crash, an abusive relationship or a violent assault. Although PTSD commonly is associated with soldiers returning from war, military members are not the only ones who can suffer from it. Anyone can experience PTSD after a traumatic event, and it is important to understand and watch for symptoms in our friends and loved ones who suffer a trauma.
PTSD does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, races and genders. However, there are many factors that can increase the likelihood that someone will suffer from PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, suffering from a long and intense traumatic event, or getting injured during the event, can increase the chances that a person will suffer from PTSD. High levels of stress also make PTSD more likely, but a healthy amount of emotional support from loved ones can decrease the severity of symptoms.
Sometimes, PTSD symptoms do not manifest for days, weeks or even months. Here are a few common signs and symptoms of PTSD that can follow a traumatic event:
- Unexpected or recurring flashbacks of the trauma.
- No memory of certain parts of the trauma.
- Nightmares or other sleeping difficulties.
- Difficulty concentrating, or substance abuse.
- Avoidance of reminders of the trauma, like avoiding driving after a car crash.
- Avoidance of feelings related to the trauma.
- Negative mood changes, such as decreased interest in hobbies and leisure activities, or overly negative thoughts about oneself and others.
- Emotional outbursts or panic attacks.
- Being easily startled.
- Physical manifestations of stress, such as hair loss, fragile nails, headaches, weight loss and neck and shoulder pain.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing any signs of PTSD, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Contact a mental health professional directly, or make an appointment with your primary care physician, who can refer you to the appropriate mental health care professional.
Professional treatment is beneficial, because it can help repair damaged relationships, provide coping skills to better handle negative thoughts and feelings, and help make sense of the trauma. PTSD is a treatable disorder, but it can have devastating consequences if left untreated.