The widespread impact of post-traumatic stress disorder

(Last Updated On: August 7, 2015)

Many have thought that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is only experienced by veterans, but on the contrary, anyone that has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event can experience PTSD, even children. PTSD occurs when something  traumatic takes place that disables a person’s ability to cope and affects them emotionally, mentally, physically or socially.

Some situations that trigger the disorder include being a victim of or witness to a robbery, shooting, domestic violence, horrible weather conditions or a car accident, to name a few. Media coverage of natural disasters and mass shootings, such as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy Hook, or Columbine, and even televised 911 calls,  may have affected people in a traumatic way as well. In essence, some individuals can experience PTSD without having experienced the event directly. Some people experience symptoms right away, while others may experience delayed reactions weeks, months or even years later.

Symptoms fall into five major categories

1.  Someone who experiences or is a witness to a traumatic event.

2. Intrusion symptoms, such as:

  • flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • bad dreams
  • frightening thoughts

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. Symptoms can be triggered by a person’s own thoughts and feelings, or even words, objects or situations that are reminders of the event.

3. Avoidance symptoms, such as:

  • staying away from places, events or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • feeling emotionally numb
  • feeling strong guilt, depression or worry
  • losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • having trouble remembering the dangerous event

man head down

Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

4. Hyper-arousal symptoms, such as:

  • being easily startled
  • feeling tense or “on edge”
  • having difficulty sleeping and/or having angry outbursts

Symptoms of hyper-arousal are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating. Courtesy of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

5. Negative alterations in mood or cognitions, such as:

  • memory problems that are exclusive to the event
  • negative thoughts or beliefs about one’s self or the world
  • distorted sense of blame for one’s self, or others, related to the event
  • being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness)
  • severely reduced interest in pre-trauma activities
  • feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people

Courtesy of psychcentral.com

But for those who are dealing with PTSD, there is always hope! No one has to continue to have their quality of life adversely affected by a traumatic experience. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, please seek out a therapist who is trained in this area; seek out a professional to see if PTSD is the issue you are struggling with. Another option is to avoid certain people, places or activities that could potentially serve as a trigger to an unwelcomed traumatic response.

Sonya Waddell is a Licensed Professional Counselor right outside of Atlanta, Ga. She is the author of “Single Ladies: Living Holy in a Sexy World” which can be purchased on Amazon.

The widespread impact of post traumatic stress disorder