Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is probably a term you’ve heard quite a bit in your life. You might hear others identify it incorrectly to describe a dramatic incident, or you might think it mostly relates to soldiers after military combat. In actuality, PTSD can affect anyone and result from a variety of distressing experiences. It is a mental health condition in which people experience a number of symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event or series of repeated events. While PTSD symptoms can feel debilitating, coping skills and a support network can help along the path to healing. Read on for a deep-dive into PTSD and ways you can seek or give help.
What causes PTSD?
PTSD can develop after any event that makes you fear for your safety. It can affect people who personally experience the traumatic event, such as a life-threatening house fire, those who witness it, such as neighbors and emergency responders, or those who are part of the healing and support process, such as friends and family.
PTSD is caused when someone experiences too much stress in a situation. Even when the danger has passed, the nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance and the person is unable to move on from the event.
What does PTSD look like?
PTSD can look different for everyone. Symptoms can occur immediately after a traumatic event or months or even years later. They can appear at any time or when triggered by something that reminds a person of the trauma. There are four main types of symptoms:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares.
Avoidance and numbing, such as feeling detached from others and a loss of interest in life in general.
Hyperarousal, including sleep problems and reckless behavior.
Negative thoughts and mood changes, such as depression, memory difficulty and feelings of guilt.
What is the difference between a traumatic event and PTSD?
When you experience a stressful event, such as a natural disaster, car accident, physical injury or assault, you most likely experience some PTSD symptoms. When an event shakes you or makes you question your safety and trust, it’s normal to feel unbalanced, disconnected or numb. For a while, you might experience bad dreams, lingering fear and be unable to focus for a few days or weeks. If you have PTSD, symptoms don’t go away — and they might even continue to get worse.
How can I help someone experiencing PTSD?
The path to PTSD recovery involves rebalancing the nervous system so one can heal and move on from trauma. Providing caring support, connection and companionship is an important element to PTSD recovery. If a friend or loved one is experiencing PTSD, let them know you are available to listen, talk — or simply just be there.
How WhiteFlag can help.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, the WhiteFlag community is here for you, no matter how you need it. Whether you want to talk about your trauma or simply connect with someone who knows what you’re going through and can listen without judgment and criticism, the WhiteFlag community is a safe space that is always here.
You’re not alone. Download the app to get help and give help.