June is PTSD(Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Month. Williamson Forward spoke with Traci Kramer, MSW, LCSW with Williamson Health and Wellness Center-Behavioral Medicine Clinic for some information about PTSD, including symptoms, triggers, and some lesser-known facts.
“As a therapist, I see many folks who have PTSD or who have been through traumatic experiences,” Traci says. She describes trauma as “anything that overwhelms and distresses the senses.”
What is PTSD?
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition (anxiety disorder) that can occur after experiencing a frightening, stressful event,” Traci says. “It isn’t a mental illness, it’s a psychological injury. It changes the brain.” She encourages folks to understand that it’s not just experienced by veterans and soldiers. “It’s so important for people to understand that this isn’t a condition that solely belongs to soldiers who have been to combat. Many people I have seen have experienced accidents or saw deaths in the mines, have economic struggles, have been molested as children, or have experienced other forms of trauma.”
PTSD began being recognized when soldiers returned from World War II with anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. It was described at the time as shell shock, which would later be understood as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD and Our Loved Ones
It might be more common than you think, with around 7 or 8 people in every 100 likely to develop PTSD. It is more common among women, with around 10 out of 100 women developing PTSD. It’s more common among those who have a greater risk of being exposed to trauma, such as those who have been in war, a serious accident, or who have been assaulted. Some careers have higher rates of PTSD, such as soldiers, firefighters, paramedics, and counselors and psychologists. Traci does state that “about half the people with PTSD can recover in about three months without treatment.”
Different people will experience PTSD in different ways. For example, the way men and women show symptoms can be very different. “They can have similar experiences. However, women tend to avoid situations that trigger uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and may be jumpier than men,” Traci says. “Men typically react with anger, and may use drugs and alcohol to help cope with negative feelings.”
Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, hallucinations and nightmares of the incident, avoiding “triggers”, intrusive thoughts and feelings of guilt, and, in young children, delayed toilet training, motor skills, and language skills.
It’s important to support your loved ones experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Encourage them to engage with things that help them heal, such as therapy, yoga, medication, and meditation. Allow them to feel safe with you, Traci says. “Give them the ability to feel safe as much as possible,” she says. “Open communication is important. Ask specifically what they need at various times.”
Traci also says to encourage healthy living. “Try to make sure they get enough exercise, a healthy diet, and minimal amounts of caffeine.” Above all else, never belittle the experiences of your loved one, or suggest that they “get over it”. Traci notes, “Be aware that every single one of us reacts differently to our experiences.”
To find more information about Williamson Health and Wellness Center- Behavioral Medicine Clinic call 304-236-5902 or click here for their Facebook page.