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Understanding PTSD

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

A Story about PTSD

Jesse is a 35-year old married veteran. Jesse had returned from Afghanistan, where he had served as an officer. He went to the VA outpatient health clinic complaining of having “a short fuse.” Jesse's symptoms included rage when startled, thoughts death-related events, nightmares of combat that caused trouble sleeping, anxiety and a loss of interest in hobbies he once enjoyed with friends. Although all of these symptoms were very distressing, Jesse was most worried about his anger. His temper caused fights, cursing at strangers who stood too close in checkout lines, and an attack when coworkers startled him by accident.

These moments reminded him of a time in the military when he was on guard at the front gate. While he was dozing, an enemy stunned him into action.

Jesse was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. His main concerns were due to his symptoms of fear, and his aggression when startled by someone. Jesse was jittery and always on the lookout for danger. He also had a lot of memories, nightmares and flashbacks.

Jesse’s attempts to reduce the risk of conflict limited his social and career opportunities.

"PTSD can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age"

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may diagnosed in people who have experienced or witnessed a life altering traumatic event. Mainstream people might limit such an event to be witnessing a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act. Most people equate PTSD with being in a war/combat zone or experiencing a rape. Some people don't realize that having been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury are also triggers for PTSD. PTSD can also be related to intimate partner violence or non intimate partner violence, intimidation, and cyber bullying or stalking.

PTSD is known by many names such as “shell shock”, “combat fatigue”. However, it's extremely important to debunk stigma and lift up the fact that PTSD does not just happen to veterans. "PTSD can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age, according to the American Psychiatric Association. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD. Three ethnic groups – U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians – are disproportionately affected and have higher rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites."

People with PTSD have intense, thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the event. They may relive and reexperience the effects and feelings connected to an event. This can come in the form of flashbacks or night terrors, feeling sadness, extreme, fear and even anger. They may feel estranged from other people and may often avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event. They may have strong reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

It is important that when supporting lovingly someone who has PTSD that we understand what triggers they may be experiencing. That we are patient and that we provide safe spaces for them to be apart of our lives free of judgement.

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