The Invisible Wounds: Why Posttraumatic Stress Gets Overlooked
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Traumatic events can include but are not limited to, natural disasters, physical or sexual assault, combat, terrorism, and serious accidents. Individuals with PTSD may experience intense fear, helplessness, or horror during or after the traumatic event.
Symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of triggers related to the event, negative changes in mood or thought patterns, and hyperarousal or hypervigilance. These symptoms can be severe and long-lasting and can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.
Understanding Why Posttraumatic Stress Gets Overlooked
Unfortunately, many individuals who experience trauma do not receive the support and treatment they need. There are several reasons why posttraumatic stress gets overlooked.
One reason is the societal stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health. Many people still believe that mental health disorders are a sign of weakness or that individuals with mental health issues should just “get over it.” This attitude can prevent individuals from seeking help and can also make it difficult for individuals with PTSD to receive the support they need from their loved ones.
Another reason why posttraumatic stress gets overlooked is that the symptoms of PTSD can be invisible. Unlike physical injuries, the wounds of trauma are often internal and can be difficult to recognize. Individuals with PTSD may appear to be functioning well on the outside, but they may be struggling internally.
Finally, PTSD can be challenging to diagnose. The symptoms of PTSD can overlap with other mental health disorders, and the diagnostic criteria for PTSD have changed over time. As a result, some individuals with PTSD may not receive a proper diagnosis, which can make it challenging to access appropriate treatment.
Stigma and Misconceptions Surrounding Posttraumatic Stress
As mentioned earlier, stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health can contribute to the overlooking of posttraumatic stress. Many people believe that individuals with PTSD are weak or that they should just “get over it.” This attitude can be incredibly damaging to individuals with PTSD, as it can prevent them from seeking help and can make them feel ashamed or guilty for experiencing symptoms.
Another misconception surrounding PTSD is that it only affects veterans. While it is true that many veterans experience PTSD, anyone can develop PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This misconception can prevent individuals who are not veterans from recognizing that they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD and seeking help.
Finally, some people believe that PTSD is a rare disorder. In reality, PTSD is much more common than many people realize. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7-8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
The Impact of Posttraumatic Stress on Mental Health
PTSD can have a significant impact on mental health. Individuals with PTSD may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. They may also have difficulty with interpersonal relationships and may struggle to maintain employment or attend school.
The impact of PTSD can also extend to physical health. Individuals with PTSD may be at higher risk for chronic pain, heart disease, and other physical health problems.
Perhaps most concerning is the impact that PTSD can have on suicide risk. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, individuals with PTSD are at higher risk for suicide than the general population
How Childhood Trauma Affects the Brain
One of the reasons that childhood trauma can be so devastating to mental health is that it can have a significant impact on the developing brain. When a child experiences trauma, it can affect the structure and function of their brain in ways that can make it harder to regulate emotions, cope with stress, and form healthy relationships. Specifically, childhood trauma can lead to changes in the brain’s stress response system, the prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala, all of which are involved in regulating emotions and responding to threats.
The stress response system, which includes the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland, is responsible for releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress. When a child experiences trauma, the stress response system can become overactive, leading to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. This can make it harder for the child to regulate their emotions and cope with stress, leading to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating emotions and making decisions, can also be affected by childhood trauma. Specifically, trauma can lead to a reduction in the size and function of the prefrontal cortex, making it harder for the child to regulate their emotions and make healthy choices. This can contribute to a range of mental health problems, including depression.
Finally, the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions and evaluating threats, can also be affected by childhood trauma. Specifically, trauma can lead to an overactive amygdala, making it more difficult for the child to regulate their emotions and respond appropriately to threats. This can contribute to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Common Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress
Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include:
- Intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Avoidance of triggers related to the event
- Negative changes in mood or thought patterns
- Hyperarousal or hypervigilance
It is important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a traumatic event, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional.
Seeking Help for Posttraumatic Stress
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is essential to seek help. The first step is to get connected with a mental health professional. They can help you determine if you have PTSD and can recommend appropriate treatment options.
It is also important to have a support system in place. This can include friends, family members, support groups, or other individuals who can provide emotional support and encouragement.
Treatment Options for Posttraumatic Stress
There are several treatment options available for PTSD. The most common treatments include:
- Psychotherapy: This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, or other types of therapy that can help individuals with PTSD process the traumatic event and develop coping strategies.
- Medication: Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of PTSD.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This is a specialized type of psychotherapy that involves a series of eye movements that can help individuals process traumatic memories.
It is important to note that not all treatments work for everyone, and it may take time to find the right treatment approach for you.
Coping Strategies for Posttraumatic Stress
In addition to seeking professional help, there are several coping strategies that individuals with PTSD can use to manage their symptoms. These strategies can include:
- Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises
- Regular exercise or physical activity
- Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy
- Seeking out social support from friends or family members
- Avoiding drugs or alcohol, which can exacerbate symptoms.
It is important to remember that coping with PTSD is a journey, and it is okay to take things one day at a time.
Conclusion: Raising Awareness and Breaking the Silence Around Posttraumatic Stress
Posttraumatic stress is a serious and debilitating mental health disorder. Unfortunately, the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health can make it challenging for individuals with PTSD to receive the support and treatment they need.
By raising awareness and breaking the silence around posttraumatic stress, we can help individuals with PTSD feel less isolated and more supported. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is essential to seek help and support.
Together, we can work to ensure that individuals with PTSD receive the care and compassion they deserve.
It’s important to get connected with the therapist in the very early days of your traumatic event and stop it to be turned into PTSD in the future. If we put on attention and start getting PTSD sessions then it will be less painful and traumatic.