While some people are able to recover after a traumatic experience, many relive their worst moments over and over… and over again.
Approximately 7 to 8 people out of a 100 will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives, and 8 million adults have PTSD in a given year.
To some, these numbers may come as a surprise, but they are easier to comprehend when you understand the likelihood of experiencing trauma. In fact, 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives.
In 2010, the United States Senate officially recognized June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.
Four years later in 2014, they extended the designation to include the entire month of June as PTSD Awareness Month.
What is Trauma and the 3 Categories of Traumatic Events?
According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.
Traumatic events are broken down into three main categories:
1. Acute Trauma
Acute Trauma describes a type of trauma that results from a single incident. Incidents that could result in acute trauma include (but are not limited to):
- Car accident
- Witnessing a violent event
2. Chronic Trauma
Chronic Trauma refers to trauma that is prolonged and repeated. Incidents that could result in chronic trauma include (but are not limited to):
- Repeated physical or sexual abuse
- Domestic violence
- Living in a violent environment
- War or combat
3. Complex Trauma
Complex Trauma includes exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events.
Like chronic trauma, complex trauma also results from prolonged and repeated traumatic events and can develop as a result of any of the incidents listed above. However, complex trauma also includes another set of criteria including the following:
- The traumatic events were perpetrated by a trusted individual
- The traumatic events resulted in a sense of betrayal
- The traumatic events occurred during childhood
Lesser-Known Traumatic Experiences
While abuse, war, and violent experiences are the most commonly recognized traumatic events, there are many incidents that may result in trauma. Because of this, it’s important that we understand that everyone processes harmful incidents differently, and all experiences must be respected.
Here are some other experiences that may result in trauma:
- Verbal abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Psychiatric hospitalization
- Sibling abuse
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is recognized as one of 6 types of trauma disorders, along with Acure Stress and Adjustment Disorders, among others.
It’s normal to feel distressed after a traumatic event. However, if symptoms occur for longer than a month and dramatically interfere with day-to-day life, a person may be experiencing PTSD.
There is no specific timeline for the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD may be diagnosed as early as one month after the traumatic event or could appear years later. Regardless of the onset of PTSD, the symptoms are consistent.
PTSD and Mental Health
It’s unknown why some people who experience trauma are able to adjust and cope while others develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As with most mental health issues, PTSD may develop in those with a genetic predisposition or as a result of the way the brain processes stress. It may be these same factors that put a person at risk for addiction.
It’s etimated that more than half of the people living with the disorder also have an issue with PTSD and addiction. Many of those experiencing PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate, avoid painful memories, and attempt to manage stress.
However, using substances to numb the pain from trauma will magnify symptoms, delay treatment progress, and ultimately make PTSD last longer.
Because co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders feed off one another and make the symptoms worse, it’s essential to treat both conditions simultaneously with Dual Diagnosis Treatment.
As a result of the stigma attached to addiction and mental health disorders, many people don’t seek the treatment they need to mange, and overcome these growing health issues. Everyone should understand that help is available, and there’s no shame in practicing self-care.
June is PTSD Awareness Month
Two of the biggest misconceptions about PTSD are:
1. PTSD is simply stress after trauma
2. PTSD only happens to veterans
Sure, there is some validity to these statements, although they are both an oversimplification of the reality and statistics.
Everyone feels stress after a traumatic event, but that doesn’t signify it is related to PTSD.
And while many veterans do experience PTSD, it is something that impacts people from all walks of life, not just those who served.
The goal of PTSD Awareness Month is to raise awareness that treatment is available, and help educate more people about the disorder to dispel the stigma and misconceptions surrounding it.
The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD website is an excellent resource for raising awareness. It includes information to share on social media, ways to partner with others to spread the word, and phone numbers and links to find help and treatment.
We can all do our part to shatter the stigma and help others understand treatment is available and works. No person should have to live their life in fear or secrecy about an illness that affects 8 million people and is treatable. Please help spread the message in June and use the hashtag #PTSDAwarenessMonth.