OCTOBER 29, 2014 – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been in the headlines in recent years as our nation has become aware of emotional injuries related to war. This disorder has also been linked to victims of domestic violence and rape. PTSD can be a major problem in the lives of the afflicted and also their loved ones. It can be hard to know how to comfort and support a friend going through something so hard. Luckily we are learning a lot more about the disorder and how to address it.
What It Is
PTSD is the result of an event, or a series of events in a person’s life which were perceived as dangerous or fearful. These kinds of intense emotional events trigger hormonal changes in that person which caused a “fight-or-flight” response. For most people, that response is temporary, but for some, the fear response may continue for months and years when the fear is triggered again.
Gene susceptibility and brain damage from injury or disease may be enabling factors for PTSD. The result? The PTSD sufferer has urgency to get out of the causative situation or be harmed, even long after that situation no longer exists. That fight-or-flight response fails to get turned off, resulting in continuing fright and stress which may occur through flashbacks, disturbed dream life involving those same events, and recurring frightening thoughts. People may avoid places or activities that remind them of the troublesome events. Symptom onset may take months.
Children do not cope with stress and fear the same way. In young children bedwetting, clinging behavior, and regression in normally developed behaviors like walking, may occur. Sometimes destructive behavior is seen in older children, but the cause is most often PTSD.
Who It Impacts
The primary affected person is the one with PTSD. But, families, friends, school, the work place, and religious institutions, are all impacted by the person with PTSD. Unfortunately, PTSD behavior is not always recognized as separate from a mental or physical injury. Family relationships get strained or broken, which is why those suffering from undiagnosed PTSD need encouragement to seek evaluation and therapy from a professional with applied behavior analysis certification. Referred PTSD may develop in a person who identifies with the one who actually felt threatened by “traumatic” events like abuse, accident, bombings, crashes, earthquakes, floods, kidnapping, mugging, rape, torture, war, and so on.
What They Can Do
There is hope for this disorder, whether you are the one affected or know someone who is. Encourage evaluation. Start with the person’s primary care physician who can refer to therapists and others who are familiar with PTSD.
“Survivor groups” can be a great source of support. Help with transportation and encouragement in these groups and do all you can to help sufferers connect. Find ways for family and friends to get educated about the disease and talk openly about the problems and solutions. What works for others may not be what works for you.
Get information. Diagnosticians and therapists from recognized graduate programs specializing in applied behavior analysis are trained resources. They seek to apply science to problems of human behavior at individual level or group levels.
PTSD is a serious problem and something many people live with day to day. If you can, find ways to support and encourage once you have a diagnosis. Once you all know what to expect the solutions can come a bit easier.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.