I am almost certain one of the first things that came to mind when you read the title was war survivors. Perhaps even military veterans. What about a natural disaster? Terrorist attacks such as 9/11? Or even domestic and/or sexual abuse? All of the previously listed may very well cause an individual to develop PTSD.
P O S T – T R A U M A T I C S T R E S S D I S O R D E R:
A psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault. In the United States alone, an estimated 8% of Americans will be diagnosed with PTSD. That is approximately 24.4 million people. Of those 24.4 million individuals, 1 out of 10 will be women. Women are roughly twice as likely than men to develop PTSD. In total 60-80% of trauma victims will develop this psychiatric disorder. That is more than half of the individuals sitting in your classroom, church, work meeting, and social event. Think about it.
A major misconception found in society regarding PTSD is that only combat veterans endure it. False. Although thousands of veterans were diagnosed with PTSD post combat, these veterans are not the only victims of this psychiatric disorder. Until I was freshly diagnosed with PTSD, I too still believe in this fallacy. On Friday April 13th, 2018 I was diagnosed with delayed-onset PTSD. The irony I know. What this means is that I was asymptomatic for at least the first six months following my trauma. Meaning I had no signs of someone who has PTSD. For those who are unaware, I was raped August 21st, 2017…. A week shy of eight months I was then diagnosed with my psychiatric disorder. Talk about perfect timing. Another diagnoses, which means another possible reason to be medicated right? Right. So as you can imagine, I was completely disheartened. The week prior to my diagnosis, I graphically recall developing abrupt-onset panic attacks that would… essentially paralyze me. I couldn’t shake them nor stop them. And they were consistent! I joked and said how Satan must have had a crush on me, because he would not leave me alone. Post trauma, I stopped taking my antidepressants after I began normalizing my daily routine. I wanted to become medication free. I wanted to be in control again. And I wanted to get back to being Brittany. Not Brittany that is dependent on Lexapro, Ativan, and Valium to help her live. To be told I had added yet another psychiatric diagnoses onto my health history was devastating. I truly felt defeated… But my psychiatrist wasn’t incorrect with her diagnosis. Here’s why…
“I F I T C R I T E R I A P E R F E C T L Y “
I guess subconsciously I wasn’t paying close enough detail to my sudden adjustment to outside stimuli. What I mean is… I didn’t know I was switching up my life because of my rape. Yes that sounds odd, but I did not anticipate to become subconsciously paranoid… Well not for an extended time. But I was raped. And there is no “time frame” for healing. I became more attentive to black men, and their characteristics. I paid close attention to their body language, and how they maneuvered. I inspected how every detail from eye contact to where they place their hands while talking. If I was too close to a familiarity of him, I would freeze up and cry. It were as if I was reliving it all over again. Yet I was still ignorant to what would be the beginning how I would then live my life.
T r i g g e r . n
an act or event that initiates a reaction or series of reactions
I stopped going to places that reminded me of him. I stopped communicating with numerous males in my medical workplace. I stopped speaking to my guy friends. I stopped driving certain routes to avoid him seeing me. I even parked in a different parking lots so he wouldn’t know if I was at work. At the time all of my actions were subconsciously.
There are four symptoms of PTSD that an individual must present with for at least an onset of one month. In addition, an individual may also present with one of these symptoms, but may not meet criteria for a full fled diagnosis.
Arousal & Reactivity
Cognition & Mood
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause dilemmas in a person’s daily routine. Symptoms may begin from the individual ruminating, and trickle down and affect their disposition. Factors such as words, objections, and even familiar situations can prose as a “trigger” of the event.
Examples: Flashbacks (reliving the trauma), nightmares, frightening thoughts, and physical symptoms i.e. rapid heart rates or sweating.
Avoidance symptoms contains things that reminds the individual of their trauma event. In severe cases, these symptoms may force an individual to adjust their daily routine. An example would be not taking the same route to work if one had a car crash at a particular intersection. This same individual might even delay getting behind the wheel until their ready again.
Examples: Staying away from places, objects, people, and places, and avoiding, thoughts and/or feelings.
3. Arousal & Reactivity:
Arousal symptoms present to be more consistent than intermittent. Individuals with these symptoms are often in constant “flight or fight” than at rest. Individuals presenting with these may find daily tasks difficult to accomplish, may have increased stress, difficulty eating and sleeping, and even concentrating.
Examples: Easily startled, increased agitation, and feeling tense
4. Cognition & Mood:
Cognition & Mood symptoms are symptoms that can begin or worsen after the traumatic event. These symptoms can make the individual feel alienated or disengaged from their friends or family members. Daily social engagements may abruptly become obsolete in an individual’s life suffering from PTSD.
It is natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event ( such as 9/11 or a abuse). There are individuals who may develop acute symptoms that resolve after a few weeks. More acute symptoms are usually categorized as ASD ( acute stress disorder). However, there are also individuals that may develop symptoms lasting more than one month. Over 70% of individuals who suffer with PTSD also have another behavioral health disorder such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse. It is not uncommon, that more than one of these disorders coexist.
In my case, I was diagnosed with delayed-onset PTSD. As stated earlier, I was asymptomatic for the first 6+ months post trauma. This does not by any means neglect the fact that I was completely shattered. I wasn’t eating, sleeping, I had decreased motivation, I was extremely withdrawn, but that was “expected”. It was not until I thought I was doing… better that I hit rock bottom. However, I knew it was not the end of the road, just a bump in the road. I began noticing that being around men who resembled a similar body frame as him made me freeze up. Men who also had a deep voice made me increasingly anxious. I couldn’t be around them.
F U R T H E R A S S O C I A T E D M E N T A L H E A L T H D I S O R D E R S W I T H P T S D
A N X I E T Y D I S O R D E R S
Individuals battling PTSD may also have other coexisting mental health disorders. Examples are: anxiety disorders, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, and depression. Two crucial and common disorders coexisting with those suffering PTSD are agoraphobia (which is a form of anxiety), and substance abuse.
A G O R A P H O B I A
Fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment.
An example of this disorder would be an individual who suffers from panic attacks ruminating until they induce themselves into having another panic attack. Another example could involve an individual who experiences a trauma (such as domestic violence), and may fear being in certain whereabouts due to flashbacks. Or even being in a crowded party where you cannot see the exit if a gunman opened fire… Does this make sense? It goes back to T R I G G E R S…
S U B S T A N C E A B U S E
I find it essentially imperative to discuss the severity of substance abuse as a dual-diagnosis. Any instance a psych disorder and substance abuse behavior coexist, the presenting individual now has a dual-diagnosis. A 2014 survey from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows 7.9 million people in the U.S experiencing both substance use and a mental health disorder simultaneously. 4.1 of those individuals are men. Individuals suffering from PTSD might turn to substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and even opioids as a mean to self medicate. Patterns of behavior might leave the individual socially withdrawn, agitated, and drug dependant.
People are not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a disorder in which we as a community need to begin familiarizing ourselves with. There are treatments and therapies individuals can help benefit from. Cognitive behavior therapies, counselling, medications, and psychotherapy. Self coping just delays an inevitable mental calamity. As a community we need to continue to educate, uplift, and support one another. Although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does not have a cure, there are numerous resources and outlets to assist with daily life. For me that is medication. For someone else it could be therapy. June is PTSD awareness. These are our friends, family, and loved ones who need us. I encourage you spread awareness. To our veterans,natural disaster victims, domestic/sexual assault victims, and anyone else. You might be surprised who you can help.
1.800.273.TALK (8255) – Veterans Press ‘1
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hope Line
National Domestic Violence Hotline