June is national Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness month. The National Center for PTSD estimates that annually 8 million people may grapple with the illness. Thanks to overplayed stereotypes in the media, there are many outdated or simply untrue notions about the illness.
1. Reportedly, the majority of recently returned veterans do not experience PTSD. The rates for PTSD among veterans of conflicts such as Desert Storm (12%) and the Iraqi Freedom (11-20%) are estimated to be much lower than that of soldiers who served in Vietnam (30%).
2. PTSD is not limited to combat survivors. There are many more common life battles that can cause people to experience PTSD: a violent assault such as rape; sudden death of family, friend or romantic partner; natural disasters; major accident; mass violence; a major illness such as cancer; homelessness; and more.
3. You don’t have to be physically injured to experience PTSD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you can develop symptoms of PTSD just by being a witness to violence or someone else’s physical trauma.
4. The average age of PTSD onset is early twenties but it can manifest at any age, including childhood.
5. Women are “twice as likely to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms, and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.” This fact might not come as a shock if you know that women are more likely to victimized by certain types of personal assault, such as rape and domestic violence.
6. People of color can be especially at risk for PTSD because they are more likely to experience the disturbing incidents and scenarios that can bring about the illness. For example, African Americans are more likely to be victims of or exposed to violent crime. And, Native American women are more likely to experience gender-based violence.
7. There are critical differences between normal anxiety and PTSD. Seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional to help sort out the distinctions and get a proper diagnosis.
8. PTSD symptoms can take months after a traumatic event to appear, and victims of the illness can suffer for years. Holidays and anniversaries can be especially troubling time for people with PTSD. What may be an otherwise happy occasion to family and friends can, for a PTSD sufferer, be a painful reminder of the initial trauma, or reinforcement of the feeling of being outside normal life.
9. PTSD can put you at risk for other health and safety concerns, such as drug abuse and heart problems.
10. Yes, there is an app. Actually a few. PTSD Coach can help users with Androids and iOS devices cope with managing symptoms. MyBivy, developed by a twenty-something who wanted to help people like his veteran Dad, allows smart-watch wearers to track and mitigate night terrors.
Remember, while technology can help improve efforts to understand and cope, PTSD is a serious illness and that these tools should not be seen as a substitute for treatment by a qualified professional. Get assistance (in English or Spanish) with finding a practitioner for yourself or someone you care about by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Or, use this tool which promises to keep personal information and the search criteria you enter secure and anonymous.
For more information about PSTD, read PTSD And Complex PTSD: What Happens When You’ve Lived In A Psychological War Zone.