When we think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we usually think of this only affecting war veterans and soldiers. However, it is more common than you think. In fact, about 8% of the American population have PTSD (around 24.5 million people) in the United States. Even children can get PTSD, especially those who experience traumatic episodes such as domestic abuse, violent accidents, or a natural disaster like tornadoes, floods, or fires. People who suffer from PTSD also have higher-than-normal rates of healthcare concerns, including physical ailments such as heart attack, stroke, ulcers, and high blood pressure.
Good Stress Versus Bad Stress
There is a good form of stress which is called eustress. This positive stress is a short-term and motivating type of stress that helps you focus on a specific target or goal. For instance, when you are starting a new job, getting married, or having a new baby, you may feel anxious (but excited!), and you will plan through next steps and short-term goals in anticipation of these changes. The eustress that you experience is not a long-lasting condition that affects your health in a negative way like bad stress does. Bad stress usually is triggered when something negative happens in your life such as surviving any type of violence, losing a loved one, a relationship ending, or serious money issues. Internal problems can also cause negative stress such as fear, worrying about the future, or repetitive thoughts like those associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Who Gets PTSD?
Some people are more susceptible to anxiety disorders like PTSD. Women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD than men, and those who have family with PTSD or any other mental health condition, or they themselves have a history of depression, anxiety, or mental illness are more likely to also have PTSD. Many people try to self-medicate with over-the-counter medications, homeopathic remedies, or even alcohol and/or drugs. However, these coping mechanisms can and usually do make things worse as addiction also becomes a factor.
Signs of PTSD
If you are not sure if you have PTSD, there are some symptoms that can help you determine if you need to talk to a professional. Some of these include:
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Extreme stress
- Isolating yourself from others
- Frightening thoughts
- Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
- Memory loss
- Unable to concentrate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Intense displays of anger or aggression
- Tense or on edge all the time
- Easily startled
- Appetite and weight loss
- Feelings of shame and hopelessness
- Panic attacks (rapid heartbeat, trembling, dizziness, nausea, fainting)
Talk to a Professional
If you or someone you know has any of the symptoms above or may have just gone through a traumatic event that could lead to PTSD, you should contact your physician or another medical professional to get help. There are many options that can help such as medication, cognitive behavior therapy, and talk therapy. The most effective treatment for PTSD is counseling that includes techniques such as desensitization, narrative exposure therapy, and cognitive processing. However, getting treatment is sometimes hard to do when you have PTSD. Just the thought of going out in public can cause a panic attack, or perhaps sharing your feelings with a complete stranger may be unsettling for you. Online counseling can be immensely helpful for those with PTSD. You do not have to go out in public, and you can communicate with a counselor on your phone, tablet, computer, or even use instant messaging or email. If you or someone you know has PTSD or is experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, a licensed therapist could help you cope.