This post was written by Nathan Putnam, MSW, LCSW, a behavioral health therapist at Beloit Community Health Center. Nathan has a special interest in veterans, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, and other mental and behavioral health concerns. He is currently accepting new patients.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness and You
May was Mental Health Awareness Month, June is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Month, and June 27, 2019 is National PTSD Awareness Day.
Traumatic events are very common in life. The Sidran Institute states “an estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD”.
At 70 percent, nearly three-fourths of the population, or seven out of 10 adults have most likely experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime. With the current population in the United States at 328.8 million, that is just over 230 million people that have experienced a traumatic event.
That’s a lot of people. Those statistics create a very high likelihood that you, or someone you know, may have had a traumatic event in life and may be suffering with PTSD.
What is PTSD?
The National Center for PTSD states that “Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault”. Some additional events that can cause PTSD may be the loss of a loved one, abuse and neglect (physical, emotional, or verbal), and a major or life-altering illness.
Given that these events are so common, why is that some people develop PTSD, and some don’t? To answer that question, it is important to look at the possible symptoms of PTSD. It is extremely common, and in fact very normal, to respond to a traumatic event with sadness, distressing or upsetting memories, difficulty falling or staying asleep, sleeping more than normal, feeling keyed up or on edge, or difficulty completing familiar tasks like work, socializing, or maintaining a conversation. The difference between having PTSD or not, is in the duration of these symptoms.
If you can overcome these symptoms or they decrease over time, that’s great. If not, and these symptoms have been lingering for longer than a month, you may have PTSD. And if you are experiencing PTSD, you have to know that this is okay. There is help available by people who have education, training, and experience in treating PTSD.
PTSD treatment plans and options can vary, and it is important to discuss these options with a mental health provider. There are different types of mental health providers including, psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, and licensed clinical social workers.
When selecting a mental health provider for PTSD treatment is always important to ask whether or not the provider is trained in psychotherapy. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines psychotherapy, or talk therapy, “as a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing.”
Some of the most common PTSD treatment options are:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CBT), helps patients learn to modify and address negative thinking, self-blame, and unhelpful beliefs.
- Exposure Therapy, guides and teaches individuals to gradually approach their trauma-related memories, feelings and situations to develop coping skills.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR Therapy, is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing other stimuli such as back and forth movement of a hand, light or sound.
While these and other treatment plans are successful in treating PTSD, you may still want to discuss the option of adding medication. Medications that can assist with PTSD are typically prescribed by a psychiatrist but may be prescribed by a Nurse Practitioner or Primary Care Physician, if they have the added education, experience, or specialty. You and your mental health provider will know if medication, as part of your treatment plan, is right for you.
If the symptoms you are facing from your traumatic experience have elevated to the level of PTSD, it is not likely to simply go away. In fact, your symptoms will only get worse. So, please reach out. Try to look at it as a checkup; just like getting your annual medical or dental checkup.
There is no need to suffer. There are those that can help. We are here. You only need to reach out.
To schedule an appointment with Nathan, please call (608) 313-3372.