Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is nothing new. William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf all wrote about it, it is even mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Job. PTSD has gone by many names in the past – it was called “Soldier’s Hearts” in the post Civil War era, shell shock in World War I and combat fatigue in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. The current name, PTSD, didn’t enter our vocabulary until 1980 when it was added to the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)
What exactly is PTSD? It is a severe mental health condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, 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. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, have the traumatic event happen to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers. PTSD can be mentally and emotionally crippling and even lead to death in extreme cases.
Classified as an anxiety disorder, PTSD is more common than you might imagine; soldiers and first responders are not the only people to have PTSD. The risk of developing PTSD after trauma is around 8% for men and just over 20% for women, in fact, statistics indicate women are more likely to experience a traumatic event than men. Children under the age of 10 are less likely to experience PTSD after trauma than adults.
According to the National Center for PTSD, symptoms of PTSD include:
- Nightmares or insomnia
- Negative reactions to triggers such as smells, sounds, event anniversaries, or news stories
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding crowds, because they feel dangerous.
- Avoiding key activities, e.g. driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
- Keeping busy or avoiding seeking professional help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
- Blocking out or forgetting about parts of the traumatic event or not being able to talk about them.
PTSD symptoms usually begin shortly soon after the traumatic event, however, in select individuals’ they may not occur until months or years after the trauma. Untreated, PTSD symptoms can come and go over long periods of time. PTSD has been reported in World War II veterans forty and even fifty years after the end of the war.
If you or someone you know has shown signs of PTSD for more than three months, appears to be in great distress or if PTSD has disrupted work and personal life, please contact the Great Lakes Psychology Group to schedule a confidential appointment.