June is PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is the official name of an injury listed in the DSM V (the most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Clinically, it’s considered a specific form of anxiety. Yet, in recent years it has been referred to as an invisible wound because of it being not readily visible by others who may be interacting with the person challenged by the symptoms. We now know it’s not just a psychological wound, but also an injury that’s been imposed on a person’s nervous system. Because of its covert existence, PTSD sometimes goes undetected for periods of time or can even be mistaken for other mental health illnesses because of its shared symptoms with those diagnoses. Though for those individuals whose lives are turned upside down by PTSD, it might be considered the “not-so-invisible” wound. The personality changes they undergo and the way their bodies respond to the impact are life-altering, sometimes creating distress that seems impossible to bear.
In order to erase the stigma behind what is officially a mental health illness, some in the healthcare profession have dropped the “disorder” and just say PTS. While a person’s life can be dis-ordered by the impact of trauma and they might actually feel physically ill by its presence, addressing PTS as the injury it is can lead to more accurate understanding and care. Excellent care for those wounded in this way is the most important reason to gain as much comprehension as possible. In our communities, that understanding can lead to the development of necessary resources for those that suffer from PTS.
“…..for those persons whose lives are turned upside down by post-traumatic stress, PTSD might be considered the “not-so-invisible” wound”.
Regardless it’s call-name, post-traumatic stress can be as debilitating as any physical injury suffered by someone. The impact can be life-changing, whether managed swiftly or lingering for years. If there are multiple traumatic event(s) or the trauma experienced is prolonged in nature, a healthcare provider may refer to the stress response as complex post-traumatic stress. Either diagnosis is accompanied by a litany of distressing changes in how the person copes with his/her life. Some of those changes might be physical in nature, such as severe sleep deprivation and even headaches or nausea when recalling the traumatic event. PTS can cause major changes in what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. One of the most uncomfortable changes is how our nervous system responds to being startled or while having even just having thoughts about the traumatic event(s). This is called hyper-arousal and happens when a person is triggered by something in their environment that has even the slightest resemblance to the original trauma. When a person’s life is stricken by these stresses, he/she is likely to do whatever possible to avoid reminders of the trauma. This avoidance may cause that person to change how they exist in the world by removing themselves from otherwise healthy socialization (isolation). The internal disruption caused by the PTS wound can leave someone feeling stuck on an emotional roller-coaster without escape. Called emotional dysregulation, this upheaval in their emotions is not only stressful for them, but can be equally overwhelming for anyone in proximity to the person suffering.
“The internal disruption caused by the PTS wound can leave someone feeling stuck on an emotional roller-coaster without escape“.
In the United States, and in part as a result of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTS has received a much-needed increase in the attention it receives. Mental healthcare providers, desperate to encourage service members toward asking for help, have done remarkable work in advocating for treatment of PTS. Though anyone, regardless of the nature of trauma (rape, childhood abuse, near-death accidents or illness), could meet the criteria for PTS. Even being in long-term relationships with emotionally unsafe people is known to produce symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Thankfully, there are treatments that are effective in treating the injury. While medications may be prescribed as part of a treatment plan, there are multiple treatments available that do not require medication.
If you believe you or someone you care about is suffering from a PTS injury after being exposed to trauma, please consider reaching out to a healthcare professional in your community. There are people who know this wound is “not-so-invisible” to you and are able to offer relief from its debilitating effects.
To learn more about PTSD, please join me as I partner with PsychHub.com to educate about all mental health issues and available treatments. Click below: https://psychhub.com/partners/l-chris-cannida-lpc
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
Note: This information is not intended to replace the medical advice or treatment of a trained professional. If you feel your needs are creating an unsafe situation for you or someone else, seek emergent care through your primary care physician or local emergency room.