9 things people with PTSD want you to know

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People with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have often undergone situations that most people can’t fathom. Everyone experiences fear, but those with PTSD, fear has a way of taking on a life of its own. While everyone recovers from trauma differently, those with PTSD tend to have lingering stress that interferes with their everyday lives. It’s as if their “fight or flight” response never shuts off. Below are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to PTSD.

  1. You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD: This disorder can develop after a traumatic event, like witnessing or experiencing sexual assault, violence or death. It’s estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience one traumatic event at some point in their lives, although that doesn’t mean they will develop PTSD.
  2. The time it takes for the condition to develop varies: Sometimes symptoms don’t show up right away. According to researchers, there are two types of PTSD. There’s short-term or acute, from which a person can recover after a few months, and chronic or ongoing, where symptoms tend to persist throughout a longer period of time. 
  3. At its worst, PTSD can lead to suicide: One of the horrible side effects of any mental illness is a risk for harmful or suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S.? Visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources. 
  4. PTSD is becoming more common: Nearly 8 million American adults suffer from PTSD.
  5. The symptoms are all-consuming: The effects of PTSD aren’t just emotional. The condition has been associated with poor heart health and gastrointestinal problems. It’s also classified by paralyzing episodes of fear, avoidance of situations that trigger those fears. Mood changes like extreme guilt, worry, or loss of motivation are common with PTSD.
  6. It’s not a punchline: Think twice before you claim a stressful day of work or an uncomfortable argument “gave you PTSD.” Using mental illness in a joking manner allows for incorrect perceptions of what PTSD actually is.
  7. It’s not “all in their head”: The mind is the most complex organ in the body. Research shows that traumatic stress impacts regions in the brain. PTSD is not a condition that someone can just “get over.” 
  8. Triggers aren’t universal, there is no one size fits all: PTSD stems from various traumatic experiences for people, so it’s not uncommon that the triggers will be different as well. While PTSD is manageable, there’s always a chance that a person on the street, a sound in a store, or a comment in a conversation can provoke a paralyzing fear. 
  9. It’s possible to live a healthy, productive life with PTSD: Just because someone has PTSD doesn’t mean they can’t function or live a happy fulfilling life. Once again, the right treatment is necessary. Their illness doesn’t define them, and that’s the most important thing to remember.

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