May was Trauma Awareness month. Ironically, June was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness month. There are a lot of media references to PTSD regarding recent events.
In our Trauma Department, we have a clinical psychologist who specializes in PTSD. She is an incredible woman and enlightened me on the subject. Now, I am not saying that everyone who has been in a traumatic event will develop PTSD, nor am I an expert in the field.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, here are some facts (based in the U.S.).
- Between 7 and 8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
- About 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
- Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. About 10% of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with 4% of men. This is largely due to women being more likely to experience sexual violence.
PTSD can happen after a traumatic event such as a bad car crash, shooting, bombing, tornado, combat or assault. Not every person involved in a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but there are contributing factors that make it more likely, such as:
- The person was involved is another traumatic event earlier in their life.
- The person does not have a sound support system in place.
- The person has had recent changes in their life that were stressful or unexpected.
Other factors contributing to PTSD include:
- The person had the trauma happen directly to them or saw it happen.
- The person perceived their injuries or the injury of others to be severe.
- The person believed they, their family members or others were in danger or were afraid the event could lead to loss of life.
- The person felt helpless, a loss of control or unable to help him- or herself, family or loved ones.
What are the symptoms of PTSD? There are three key categories including:
- Reliving. The person keeps reliving the event. Some examples could be reliving through nightmares or bad memories
- Avoidance. The person avoids situations or people that can trigger thoughts of the traumatic event. He or she will also avoid talking about what happened and even feel emotionally “numb” after the event.
- Hyperarousal. The person is unable to concentrate or sleep. He or she is vigilant regarding surroundings and safety, and may experience heart racing.
I wish no one would ever have to go through a traumatic event, but if you have or know someone that has, please know there are people here to help. There is no shame in asking for help.
Don't believe all you see on TV. PTSD is real and not just a catch phrase.