Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, seems to be one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions many people struggle with as there are quite a few misconceptions about what exactly it is, the symptoms, and who it affects. I have found myself in many conversations where people have asked me what I treat and as soon as I mention PTSD, they respond with “Oh, you work with veterans. That’s awesome!” And while working with veterans is probably super awesome, that is not the population I most commonly work with. While many veterans and military personnel battle with this, they are not the only ones. It is assumed by many that to suffer from PTSD you must have had to witnessed war or some sort of extreme violence, while this can lead to PTSD, these are not the only traumatic events that lead to its development.
There are multiple types of events/experiences that can lead to PTSD, such as: medical procedures, feelings of helplessness, danger, or fear, natural disasters, abuse, seeing violence, divorce, death of a close friend or family member, etc…(NIMH, 2016). Many of these event/experiences are things many of us experience at one point or another in our lifetime, and as you can see, these are things that are experienced across the age spectrum. Which leads to another misconception, which is the thought that this is something only adults can be diagnosed with. Anyone at any age can develop PTSD. Yes, that’s right, children and adolescents can suffer from PTSD. Children and adolescents are sometimes seen to have differing symptoms than adults, which can sometimes make it more confusing to understand and diagnose. Adults with PTSD are seen to commonly experience flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event/experience, being easily startled, feeling tense or edgy, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. Children can experience these same symptoms, but they can present with bed-wetting after having been potty-trained, regression in speech, acting out event/experience in play, and/or separation anxiety with caregiver. Adolescents are seen to have similar symptoms to adults but can develop behaviors that are disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive (NIMH, 2016).
To confuse you even further, not everyone who has experienced a traumatic event or had a traumatic experience will develop PTSD. There are several factors that can play an instrumental role in reducing one’s risk of developing PTSD. One factor that can be very helpful is leaning in to a support system and allowing them to be supportive through the difficult times. If you or your loved one are not in a position to be surrounded by a support system, seeking out a support group that can help one through this experience can prove to significantly decrease this risk. Another factor that is helpful in reducing one’s risk is to find healthy ways to cope with the experience. If you or your loved one are unsure of healthy coping skills, seeking out a licensed therapist that has trauma-informed training can be beneficial in identifying healthy ways to work through the traumatic event/experience. Lastly, finding a way to process through the event/experience and identify bravery and/or viewing one’s actions in a positive manner can help to reduce the risk of developing PTSD (NIMH, 2016).
If you feel that you or a loved one have been through a traumatic event and/or experience and need additional support or feel that you may be suffering from PTSD, please feel free to contact us at Restoring Hope, LLC to schedule an assessment.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2016).Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml