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COPING WITH P.T.S.D.: Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur after someone experiences (or witnesses) a traumatic event (or series of events). Examples of traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include sexual assault, physical violence, emotional distress, natural disasters, combat experience, and serious accidents.

PTSD can cause a range of symptoms including intrusive thoughts or memories, distressing dreams, unprovoked flashbacks, avoidance of triggers, negative changes in mood or thought patterns, detachment, feeling emotionally numb, hyperarousal, easily startled and/or irritability when reminded of a traumatic event. These symptoms can be severe and long-lasting, and can significantly impair an individual's ability to function effectively in work, social, and personal situations.

The affects of PTSD are far reaching. In fact, there is a significant number of people that suffer worldwide. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

One of the highest number of victims with PTSD is found among our military veterans and first responders. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. This does not include a number of vets that have served in other conflicts and current servicemen and women currently on duty.

PTSD can affect people of all ages, including children. About 3-6% of children and adolescents in the U.S. have PTSD. However, women are more likely than men to experience PTSD. About 10% of women develop PTSD at some point in their lives, compared to about 4% of men. One major reason for this number is because of survivors of sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, about 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of PTSD during the two weeks following the assault. Many suffer for years after the assault.

It's important to note that these statistics above are based on self-reporting. Countless people may not seek treatment or may not be diagnosed with PTSD. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of PTSD for many people, although specific statistics on this are not yet available.

Treatment for PTSD typically involves a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach to treating PTSD, and may involve exposure therapy, which involves gradually exposing the individual to the triggers that cause their symptoms in a safe and controlled environment. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may also be used to help manage symptoms.

It's important to seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD. With proper treatment, individuals with PTSD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. If you (or someone you know) are in a crisis and need help immediately, text “HOME” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.

You are loved.

Dr. Ray Reynolds

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