By Valerie Rice October 1, 2020
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the time of the modern-day plague, which is what I am lovingly calling Covid-19, odds are that this mental health condition is on the rise. Once referred to as shell shock, because many soldiers came home from war forever scarred by being bombarded by bombs, of shells, it has become much more widespread.
1.) Not Just For Soldiers
Anyone who is exposed to death, serious injury, the threat of death, or many other traumas can develop this disorder. That means that women who are sexually assaulted, children, civilians, basically anyone can develop PTSD. Since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, the prevalence of violence in school has taken center stage, highlighting the danger of everyday life for school children. The twin towers terrorist attack in 2001 kicked off the war on terror and the United States has been on high alert, with the threat of injury or death looming over us all ever since. No to mention the high instances of rape, child abuse, human trafficking, and other ways people mistreat each other, it is no wonder that almost 4% of the population has a PTSD diagnosis.
2.) The Nightmares Are Real
You probably know that this disorder comes with nightmares, but did you know about flashbacks? Flashbacks are like nightmares, but real. If the traumatic event is triggered, a person relives it. This means that they go through the experience while they are awake, including the feelings, sensations, and sights, and other sensory experiences of the event. So the nightmare is literally real. The real world disappears and the horrible event takes its place for a few moments or minutes, causing confusion panic, and even lashing out or running away. It looks scary from the outside, sure, but it is much more so for them.
3.) Scared of Your Own Shadow
One part of having PTSD is hypervigilance, which means being constantly on edge, and everything has the potential to cause fear. Loud and unexpected noises make you jump and cry out. Sudden movements, such as a speeding car or person popping out from around a corner has a similar effect. The slamming of a car door down the street can result in the person crying on the ground in fear. Or a ringing phone. And definitely a fire drill. The world becomes a scary place and all the brain’s defenses go up. Which means your body feels like it is looking for a reason to run away or fight. Fists stay clenched, all the muscles are wound tight, the heart is always racing.
4.) PTSD Makes Living Hard
This is a harsh reality. I bet you can imagine that being scared of your shadow and having flashbacks makes it hard to live, but did you know that these things are unpredictable? Many f the symptoms of PTSD are triggered by things in the outside world. Kids nowadays use the term “triggered” in a mocking way and it drives me up the wall. I just want to tell them to STFU because they have no idea what they are talking about. A trigger is a sight, sound, smell, or place that sets off a flashback or maks someone with PTSD avoid an area or activity. They are very real and very terrifying; not something to be joked about. The worst part about the trigger is that they can occur with no warning and most people have triggers they don’t know about, so it happens at any time in any place. This means that activities such as work, grocery shopping, dating, or even minding your own business at home are not safe from the intrusion of PTSD. It is a seriously disabling condition.
5.) People With PTSD are Not Limited to JUST PTSD
Those of us in the mental health field understand that people with this disorder usually have comorbid disorders or more than one disorder at a time. Some of the common disorders that are linked to PTSD are depression, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), TBI (traumatic Brain Injury), and substance abuse. This is by no means a complete list, and it is very possible to have more than just 2 disorders. Mental health is complicated; it involves your mind and your body and takes a lot of work to heal. This makes it very difficult to treat because you can’t treat just one disorder at a time, they are linked.
People with PTSD are disabled, but not visibly so. It can affect any person at any time. It is a disorder that requires help from a psychiatrist, a counselor, and a social system So what can you do?
- Be kind
- Be understanding
- Show support by offering help
- Don’t judge