It's Veterans Day today and we are reminded of all the folks who have served in the US Armed Forces. Today we celebrate them and should be mindful of the personal and psychological toll on humans whose job puts them in the daily position to both experience and witness unimaginable events.
It is these men and women who first drew attention to a series of symptoms brought on by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The diagnosis of which we now refer to as PTSD.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD?
Loosely defined, it refers to those who struggle to recover after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It has gone through many definitions since first diagnosed in the 80's to acknowledge the cluster of symptoms associated with Veterans of the Vietnam War. It is now recognized as a disorder affecting those with exposure to an event the individual sees as traumatic. It differs from many other mental health disorders as the symptoms of PTSD are a direct result of experiencing a traumatic event rather than being a thought, feeling or behavior that comes from internal processes. These events include, but are not limited to, war, natural disasters, human error disasters, attempted suicide, or victims of rape or abuse.
Responses to traumatic events differ. You can have an entire family involved in a car accident and its possible only one member will suffer from the symptoms of PTSD. Everyone experiences and processes trauma differently, so it's important, when working with a client suffering from symptoms of PTSD to work based on the story of an event that they recall. Symptoms that occur in PTSD clients can include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance of people or places that might trigger memories of the event, and depression.
One of the most important pieces of recognizing PTSD is how it effects the daily life of an individual struggling with the aftermath of an event. It's important to seek help if you notice you, or someone you know who has experienced a traumatic event, struggle with the ability to manage day to day, and/or an increase in disruptive behaviors such as anger, impulsivity, or recklessness.