The month of June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and due to recent events within the United States and across the world, there’s no time like now to learn more about trauma and its impact on mental health and overall well-being.
About Trauma and Stress Disorder
Traumatic stress occurs when a response to an event is persistently affecting a person’s daily life. Reactions to traumatic events can vary from person to person, but generally include intense and enduring emotional distress, depressive symptoms or anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulties with self-regulation, nightmares, substance use and even difficulty eating and sleeping.
A person who experienced a trauma may show symptoms of severe stress within the first month. This may include significant distress and inability to engage in social activities, relationships and employment. They may also react to triggers of the trauma in everyday life with avoidance or withdrawal. Luckily, for most people who experience these symptoms, support from family, friends and professional intervention can help reduce and eliminate the recurrence of traumatic-related stress triggers.
About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Researchers have studied reactions to trauma for many years, especially in relation to combat veterans. As a result, the understanding of reactions to trauma exposure has evolved, and it is now known that PTSD is not exclusive to military experience or combat—think of those who are victims of violent crimes or have recently witnessed a violent crime, such as mass shootings, they may suffer from PTSD too.
PTSD is marked by many symptoms, and may include flashbacks, recurrent dreams, intrusive memories, withdrawal from those around them, irritability and outbursts of rage. The American Psychiatric Association states that PTSD can also present physical symptoms, including chronic musculoskeletal pain, high blood pressure, nausea and in some extreme cases, cardiovascular disease.
Know the Symptoms
It’s important to know and understand the signs and symptoms of PTSD and what to do if someone is struggling. If you know someone showing stress-related symptoms a month or more after a trauma, encourage professional help, these symptoms include:
- The individual is still very upset or fearful,
- They seem unable to escape intense, ongoing feelings of distress,
- The individual withdraws from family or friends and/or important relationships,
- They appear jumpy or have trauma-related nightmares,
- The individual states they can’t stop thinking about the trauma,
- It appears symptoms of stress are interfering with their usual activities.
How you can help
Support from family, friends and mental health professionals can be vital in supporting recovery after a traumatic event. Mental Health Fist Aid USA recommends the following:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm. Reactions to trauma will vary from person to person. It’s important to consider the best way to approach the person; choosing a non-intrusive and calm environment are crucial, but if the person is in a crisis, call 911.
- Listen nonjudgmentally and engage in conversation. Remember that trauma can lead to higher-than-usual levels of anxiety, so be mindful of how you approach the situation and encourage the person to talk about their feelings and symptoms. Reactions to trauma can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take time to listen before you discuss possible courses of action.
- Give support and information: Helping a person understand they are not alone is reassuring. A person who is experiencing a trauma response may not have had the experience or support in the past, so being honest in your interactions and communications is important.
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies: A person with trauma can benefit from self-help and other support strategies such as 12-step groups and a support network made up of family and friends.
- Assist with appropriate professional help: There are many local and national resources to help treat trauma, and you can support someone by helping them research the treatment options and professional resources available to them. Let them know that they do not have to do this alone.
Connect with a professional resource
If you are unsure if you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD, talk to a health professional. If you’re looking for additional information, these resources may help:
The providers and consultants at Focused Solutions can help
Our service providers are licensed at the highest level with extensive clinical practice experience for a diverse range of needs—mental health challenges, trauma, abuse, substance abuse—and our support extends beyond the individual to support families and the workplace. If you are looking for support, or know someone who is, feel free to contact us for more information.
- American Psychiatric Association (2022). Expert Q&A: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mental Health First Aid USA (2022). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing
- University Health (2022). PTSD Awareness Month
- S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (2022). National Center for PTSD