Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very common in movies/TV shows and was a crucial part of season two of “Stranger Things,” but as we know, TV shows are not the best at explaining disorders. PTSD is a very popular topic, and most people associate it with war veteran,s but it can affect just about anybody, especially if they have experienced more than one traumatic event in their past.

PTSD is defined as a disorder that is characterized by inability to recover from experiencing or witnessing an intense and or terrifying event. According to the 2007 Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD during their lifetime, and on average about 3.6% of adults in the U.S. aged eighteen to fifty-four (5.2 million people) have PTSD during any given year. The disorder is very common within world wide militaries due to them being exposed to life endangering situations where they not only have to fight to keep themselves and their comrades alive but also to protect their country. Roughly 30% of men and women who have been in war zones will experience PTSD, and the Iraq War has somewhere between 10% and 20% of diagnosed cases of PTSD in United States’ soldiers. One minor form of PTSD is referred to as “soldier’s guilt,” a feeling of responsibility for horrific events that may or may not be their fault. Many soldiers who have this feeling relate it most oftenly to civilian casualties, not being able to save someone close to them, and in a non-violent sense, seeing destroyed cities as a result of war. Jeriel Clark, a U.S. war veteran, described what his PTSD and guilt was about as the time he had to shoot down a civilian who was possibly strapped with a bomb. The man would not stop advancing towards Clark. After countless warnings, Clark shot the man in the leg, accidentally shooting an artery, causing the man to bleed out quickly. Clark describes how it haunts him to this day by saying, “I took a life that takes mine.” The meaning of this is that Clark was consumed by thoughts about the man and how his family carried on without him. If you would like to learn more about his story, there is a post-hardcore song called “Panic Room” by Silent Planet, a song written by a friend of Carl (Garrett Russell) about Carl’s thoughts and struggles.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not specifically tied to war zones. Many situations that can lead to full blown PTSD in soldiers is childhood abuse. Many people who were sexually, physically, and mentally abused as kids will most likely grow up and develop PTSD from that part of their life or will become susceptible to future mental issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even schizophrenia. Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S every year, and an estimated 683,000 children were victims of abuse in 2015. Apart from childhood abuse, many cases caused in non-war zones are victims of rape. One study observed symptoms of PTSD in women who had been sexually assaulted and found that ninety-four of the hundred women experienced these symptoms during the first two weeks after their being attacked. Nine months later, thirty of the hundred women were still reporting symptoms. Another way people become susceptible to PTSD is through substance abuse before and after a war or traumatic event. PTSD and alcohol abuse go hand-in-hand because many survivors “drink to forget” but with PTSD, drinking makes it kick-back even harder. In fact alcohol abuse can lead to further depression and memory problems, often times making memories of traumatic events even worse. Roughly sixty to eighty percent of Vietnam veterans who sought treatment for PTSD had alcohol problems.

PTSD is not diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least one month and have a significant cause. PTSD in adults has four types of symptoms: 1. Re-experiencing of the event: This is includes but is not limited to, upsetting memories of the event (flashbacks), nightmares, and intense mental or physical distress. 2. Avoidance: Avoiding places, thoughts, feelings or activities that remind you of the trauma, typically people who suffer from this will seclude themselves and minimize socializing. 3. Hyperarousal: Constantly on edge, easily startled, reckless behavior, and anger issues. 4. Negative thought: Guilt, feeling alienated, depressed, and hopeless, as well as difficulty remembering things. If you think you or a loved one has a category of these symptoms, it is important to seek help as soon as possible due to the destructive nature of the disorder.  PTSD is a very big factor in a person’s life as it often times, occupies the mind constantly and people from war zones can be triggered and hallucinate at the drop of a hat. The renowned “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle, was killed by an Iraq War veteran because the man experienced a flashback and mistook Kyle for an Iraqi soldier, shooting him fatally.  PTSD is almost completely uncontrollable as nobody can prevent a flashback or nightmare. Jeriel Clark described PTSD as “The nightly casualty of war” because every night he would have these painful recollections of the Iraq War. One reason many of these people do not get the help they need is due to not wanting to seem weak or different, and it is for this reason that it is crucial to be supportive of anyone that has PTSD. The only available treatments for PTSD after the first month are either antidepressants or more commonly, therapy. Therapy generally has two types, the first being a regular therapist one-on-one talk, whereas the second is called exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of therapy where the sufferer is slowly exposed to environments where the trauma took place.

This disease tears families apart, destroys lives, and ruins careers. Do not take it lightly. If you suspect someone has these symptoms, reach out because chances are they do not want to get help because they do not want to be perceived as weak or broken and it is for this reason that it is important that you show love and support towards the afflicted because. This disorder is not something that can be overcome alone. You need friends, family, loved ones, and whatever else you can get. If someone you know has recently been through a possible life threatening event, try talking to them about it. See if they are okay because talking is the first in many steps to recovery.

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