Identifying and addressing post-traumatic stress disorder
By Susan Kozak For The News-Herald
Each year, June 27 is observed as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day, with the entire month of June commonly dedicated to PTSD Awareness Month. Mental health advocates and professionals, like the team at Community Care Services, are working hard to bring greater public awareness to this serious mental health condition and encourage those who are affected to seek help.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that may develop after an individual has been exposed to one or more traumatic incidents. A traumatic incident may include either witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event, such as an assault, rape, abuse, accident, combat violence, act of terrorism, natural disaster or from witnessing or learning of a violent or tragic event.
Many people who experience traumatic events may have some difficulty coping and adjusting for a short period, but with proper time and self-care, will get better. However, if symptoms get worse or persist for months or even years and interfere with daily functioning, this can be a signal of PTSD.
Signs of PTSD
To be classified as PTSD, symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily living and relationships and last longer than one month in duration. Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes can begin years later.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult will have symptoms across four key categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactivity symptoms and cognition and mood symptoms.
This variety of symptoms may include:
• Flashbacks of traumatic event, including physical symptoms such as sweating or racing heart
• Avoiding places, events that are reminders of the event
• Feeling tense, stressed, angry
• Difficulty sleeping, eating
• Negative thoughts about self or the world in general
• Distorted feelings of guilt and/or blame
• Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
What to Do
Like most mental health conditions, PTSD is treatable with proper therapy and medication, following an appropriate diagnosis by a mental health professional with expertise in trauma. If you think you or someone you love may be struggling with PTSD, contact your physician who can connect you with a qualified mental health resource near you.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.