In the beginning there is trauma. Something terrible that happened. Something that marked the person deeply in a way that holds on. In many ways, that fight or flight response doesn’t turn off. It just keeps humming in the back ground; certain that something terrible could happen again at any moment. It is an experience that lingers and interferes with their everyday lives. It bites and gnaws; just not letting go.
It doesn’t happen to just those who’ve gone to war. It happens to anyone who has been through something terrible. To those who’ve been raped, beaten, in an accident, seen someone die and many other such things. It is estimated that 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience one traumatic event at some point in their lives, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they will develop PTSD.
Like everything in life, people present differently. Sometimes symptoms don’t show up right away and for others the symptoms occur right after the trauma. There are two types of PTSD. There’s short-term or acute, from which a person can recover after a few months, and chronic or ongoing, where symptoms tend to persist throughout a longer period of time. But with treatment, both kinds can recover and heal.
PTSD increases the risk for suicide.
Nearly 8 million American adults suffer from PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, about 8 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. These are not small groups of people, yet they seem to be hiding in the shadows all the same. Like most mental illnesses, people with PTSD are often plagued by negative stereotypes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are understanding about their condition. This is a huge problem since stigma often prevents people from seeking proper treatment.
So please offer compassion. It is not all in their heads. The mind is the most complex organ in the body, and related illnesses should be treated as such. Research shows that traumatic stress impacts regions in the brain. In other words, the condition is not something a person can just “get over” or an attitude they adopt just to seek attention. It is a real struggle.
I do not have PTSD. But I invite those of you who do to share your thoughts or experiences.