Most people experience trauma at some point in their lives. Based on the current state of affairs you may be grappling with several factors that have created trauma in your life, from climate change and the ensuing natural disasters to a high rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Now that November is here, we recognize Veterans Day as a special opportunity to celebrate and honor members of the military, but it’s also important to acknowledge the trauma that many service members have experienced. Some of that trauma could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
While we do our best to create policies and practices to prevent traumatic events, it’s impossible to erase or completely avoid them. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 6% of the population will develop PTSD, and that percentage increases to anywhere from 11 to 30% for veterans. Military-related PTSD can be the result of many factors, from combat to military sexual trauma (MST) and more.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that develops after a traumatic event that someone experiences either directly or indirectly. While most people recover from initial reactions after trauma, those who continue to experience symptoms, anxiety and other intense feelings even when they are no longer in danger may be diagnosed with PTSD. These symptoms generally fall into four categories:
- Intrusive symptoms, such as reliving the event through flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance symptoms, such as not talking about the event or steering clear of people or places that may trigger memories
- Negative changes in thinking or mood, such as misdirected blame, ongoing fear or the inability to experience positive emotions
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions, such as irritability, self-destructive behavior or difficulty concentrating or sleeping
These symptoms may not immediately follow the traumatic event. It could take months for them to appear. To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must persist for more than a month, and in some cases they could continue for a much longer period of time. Regardless, PTSD can significantly disrupt a person’s personal and professional life, making it difficult to manage daily tasks and maintain relationships.
Is recovery possible?
Effective treatments are available, and recovery is possible. Depending on the case, antidepressants may help control symptoms of depression and anxiety while other medications may help with difficulty sleeping and nightmares. Psychotherapy is often used to help people understand their symptoms, identify triggers and adopt skills to manage their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be beneficial by exposing people to the trauma they experienced in a safe way, helping them make sense of their memories and feelings.
Unfortunately, the symptoms alone make it difficult to seek help for PTSD. If you or someone you love is affected by this condition, don’t hesitate to reach out to a physician or mental health professional for help.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.