Why Is June PTSD Awareness Month?
There are about 8 million people in the United States who are suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This number is much higher than most people think it is. Because it is so common, the National Center for PTSD run by The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has designated June as PTSD Awareness Month.
In 2010, Senator Kent Conrad pushed for a specific day to be acknowledged as PTSD Awareness Day. The month of June was appointed as a time of awareness and the U.S. Senate also officially authorized June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day. This year, 2020, will be the 10th anniversary of the recognition of this day.
Senator Conrad wanted to honor the memory of Staff Sergeant Joe Biel who died in 2007 after suffering from PTSD. He was a North Dakota National Guard member who took his life following two tours in Iraq. June 27 was chosen because it is Joe Biel’s birthday.
There are many rehabilitation centers that can help someone who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. At Daylight Recovery Services, we have multiple therapy options that help with co-occurring addictions that often go hand in hand with PTSD.
What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a vast amount of causes and symptoms. PTSD affects the brain by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. This gives you bursts of energy, your heart beats faster, and your brain also puts normal tasks such as filing short-term memories on pause. In short, it can cause your brain to get stuck in danger mode.
What Causes PTSD?
The primary cause of PTSD is experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. These can range from incidents of domestic abuse, the death of a loved one, a terrible accident, war, or a natural disaster. Emergency personnel and rescue workers can also develop PTSD. Any life-altering tragedies carry with them the possibility of leaving behind intense emotional pain.
What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD?
Symptoms can be grouped into categories to help people better identify what you or someone you know is going through.
- Reliving the event through flashbacks, hallucinations, nightmares, or anything involving the event recurring in your mind.
- Avoiding people, places, things, social gatherings, or memories that could remind you of the traumatic event.
- Excessive arousal of emotions such as increased alertness, anger or rage, irritability, hatred, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Negative thoughts or feelings such as guilt, the way they respond to issues both physically and emotionally, or feelings of shame.
PTSD can cause other complications in victims’ lives as well. These can include:
- Eating disorders
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Suicidal tendencies in severe cases
- Problems in social and work relationships
Another common PTSD symptom is self-destructive behavior. This can include things like driving dangerously fast, getting into physical fights, or using excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol to self medicate.
The symptoms of this mental health disorder vary from person to person. Everyone is different which means that their symptoms will be different as well. While these lists cover most of the signs to look for, not everyone will show every symptom. PTSD also has many degrees of severeness.
What Are Common Myths Or Misconceptions About PTSD?
Myth 1: PTSD only affects military veterans.
PTSD is often associated with military veterans. It is certainly true that they may be at a higher risk of suffering from it. However, anyone who has experienced, witnessed, or had second-hand exposure to a traumatic event can be affected by PTSD. It can be caused by a number of horrible occurrences that are not related to serving in the military.
Myth 2: PTSD occurs immediately after a traumatic event.
Symptoms of PTSD can take months or years to appear. It’s not always the case that the symptoms emerge quickly after the event. If symptoms aren’t showing up for years, this is considered delayed-onset PTSD. This is diagnosed if the condition develops after at least 6 months after the traumatic event.
Myth 3: Everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD.
The facts are actually the opposite of this common assumption. Experiencing a traumatic event is not an uncommon occurrence. However, only 6.8% of those who experience such events develop lifelong PTSD.
Myth 4: Everyone with PTSD experiences the same symptoms.
PTSD can present itself very differently, depending on the person and type of trauma experienced. You could experience a variety of symptoms. As mentioned earlier, there are 4 categories of symptoms. Typically, one from each category should be present for about a month in order to receive a proper diagnosis.
Myth 5: People with PTSD are violent.
People who suffer from PTSD are not typically violent. Having PTSD can be extremely distressing, as people are re-living their most traumatic experiences frequently. Individuals deal with trauma differently. Some withdraw and appear fearful or jumpy while a small portion may act violently.
Myth 6: PTSD symptoms will just go away over time.
The majority of PTSD cases do not resolve on their own. The process of working through trauma can be tough, it takes hard work and, usually, professional help to fully recover. A professional will be able to help you get a sense of what your recovery journey will look like. With the right guidance, someone who suffers from PTSD may be able to return to their normal functioning sooner.
How To Help A Loved One Who Is Suffering
It can be difficult to see someone you love suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. But it’s important to respect your loved one’s boundaries. Your support can help them overcome feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and grief. A good place to start is providing social support for them.
The first step of providing social support is not pressuring your loved one into talking about things they are not comfortable with. Try to let them take the lead on what they want to talk about. Pay attention to cues that can help you understand what they are feeling and needing.
Make sure to continue doing “normal” things with them. Do things that have nothing to do with their traumatic experience. It is important to continue doing things such as connecting with friends, going to exercising classes, going dancing, or pursuing hobbies that are enjoyable for them.
It is important to be conscious of how you react when they confide in you. Be a good listener and try to keep communication open and honest. A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event very often. This is sometimes a part of the healing process so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop living in the past.
Other Ways to Help Your Loved One
It’s also a good idea to try and help out by anticipating potential triggers for them. A trigger could be anything – a person, place, thing, or situation – that reminds them of the trauma. This would set off one of their PTSD symptoms such as a flashback. It may take time to identify what can be triggering so stay patient and pay attention.
Some of the external triggers could be:
- Sights, sounds, or smells
- People, locations, or things
- Significant dates or times
- Nature (certain kinds of weather)
- Conversations or media coverage
- Relationships, family, school, work, or money pressures
- Funerals, hospitals, or medical treatments.
Having a plan in place to deal with triggers can help with keeping control of situations. Decide how you and your loved one should react when things happen such as nightmares, flashbacks, or panic attacks. This will keep everyone calm and make the situation less scary for both of you.
Although there are many ways to help your loved one, professional help is highly recommended. The items listed above are actions you can take in addition to receiving professional help. There are many treatment options which will provide the help they need.
PTSD And Addiction
Trauma can negatively affect the brain in many ways. The profound distress and anxiety could lead anyone down a path of drug and alcohol abuse. Many people who suffer from PTSD symptoms use drugs and alcohol to cope.
Victims of trauma sometimes feel helpless and out of control when it comes to their condition. Oftentimes drugs and alcohol can allow them to feel like they are taking back some of the control which they desire. If you’re suffering from PTSD, you might seek out drugs for a number of reasons other than control as well.
You might use drugs to help you fall asleep, which can be challenging if you are having nightmares. If you wish to avoid memories or feelings, drugs often help you to forget. Also, drugs and alcohol often are abused because they allow you to achieve positive emotions and feelings which are sometimes hard to obtain otherwise when all of your feelings are very negative.
This is why it is so common for victims of PTSD to develop an addiction. It is not a choice but rather an uncontrollable desire to seek help of any kind. However, drugs and alcohol cannot offer you the kind of help you need.
Seek Help For Co-Occurring Disorders At Daylight Recovery Services
People with PTSD and co-occurring substance addiction tend to relapse more quickly than those with an isolated addiction. It is true that people who suffer from PTSD are between 2 and 4 times more likely to also battle addiction than their peers who do not face the same issues.
At Daylight Recovery Services, we can help with co-occurring substance abuse and addictions. At our facility, we have many options for therapy which can help you live a better life. If you want to start your journey to recovery, take the right first step and contact us.