The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that June 2013 is the fourth annual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.
The VA estimates that up to 20 percent of service members return from deployment with signs of PTSD, and up to 8 percent of the population at large as being affected by the disorder as well by events other than military activities.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is an anxiety condition prompted by a frightening incident and recurring overwhelming thoughts about the episode. People who experience stressful situations may have a difficult time managing life; however, with time and self-care, many can overcome the challenges. Although for some, the symptoms may become more prominent or last for months or years and may shake up their lives entirely and progress into PTSD.
As soon as signs are noticeable, it is important to seek treatment for PTSD to prevent long-term damage to the sufferer as well as to their family.
Symptoms typically begin within three months of a harrowing event or occurrence and can include:
- Recalling the event in terms of flashbacks – this can occur for minutes, hours, or even days at a time
- Dreams or nightmares about the distressing incident
- Being or feeling numb emotionally
- Evading thinking about the experience
- Avoiding doing things you once enjoyed doing
- Feeling hopeless about your future
- Having a difficult time concentrating
- Having a difficult time remembering
- Feeling more angry and irritable
- Feeling crushing shame and guilt over the event
- Having a challenging time maintain relationships
- Difficulty sleeping
- Seeing and hearing things that are not there
- Becoming easily frightened and startled
- Feeling a lack of focus
- Severe crying spells
While simply having some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have PTSD, they can be signs of having the disorder. The VA wants people to be aware of what PTSD is, what it means not only for our vets and their families but to our nation, how it can be treated, and how to identify it, but how patients can be treated. June is about awareness.
There are several factors that would make one more pre-disposed to having PTSD than others. They include:
- Gender – more females have PTSD than males
- If you have experienced long-lasting or very intense painful experiences
- If you have had other trauma earlier in your life
- Those with first-degree relatives who have mental health problems, especially PTSD
- Those with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar
- Those who were neglected and abused as children
- Victims of rape or incest
- Those who lack a support system
- There are mitigating factors that can further complicate PTSD and make a person at a higher risk for the disorder. Those who suffer from depression, drug or alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts and actions, or eating disorders may be more susceptible to PTSD. Additionally, certain medical conditions may exacerbate the condition; musculoskeletal conditions, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases can all add to an increase risk for the disorder.
There are many terrifying events that can lead to PTSD:
- Exposure to combat
- Physical abuse or childhood neglect
- Rape or sexual molestation
- Being physically attacked
- Being physically attacked or confronted with a weapon
- Fire or other natural disaster
- Robbery, mugging, assault
- Civil conflict
- Car or other accident
- Plane crash
- Torture or kidnapping
- Life-threatening medical illness
- Terrorist attack
- Life-threatening event or experience
According to the VA, more than 2/3 of all cases of PTSD go unreported; however, unlike the most sensational cases that are reported, most sufferers are non-violent. Those who do not seek assistance may fear the stigma of being labeled due to misperception about PTSD. The VA hopes to help educate the public with the push for awareness all year, but particularly during June.
The first year PTSD Awareness Month was recognized was June 2010, making June 2013 the fourth annual.
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent / Product Specialist