Post traumatic stress disorder can impact anyone

HOUGHTON — While many people have heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, few have a thorough understanding of what it is.

Many believe that PTSD is something that only combat veterans experience, but anyone can experience PTSD.

In order to increase awareness and education, June is recognized as National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.

Post-traumatic stress is a normal response to traumatic events, states a 2019 article posted on brainline.org. BrainLine is a national multimedia project offering authoritative information and support to anyone whose life has been affected by brain injury or PTSD.

“However, PTSD is a more serious condition that impacts brain function,” the article states, “and it often results from traumas experienced during combat, disasters, or violence.”

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes PTSD as a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event.

“Your brain is equipped with an alarm system that normally helps ensure your survival,” states brainline.org. “With PTSD, this system becomes overly sensitive and triggers easily. In turn, the parts of your brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. When this occurs, it’s hard to separate safe events happening now from dangerous events that happened in the past.”

According the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 8 million people in the U.S. currently have PTSD. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff website, Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) reports that while often thought of as affecting active military and Veterans, PTSD is not limited to combat veterans or first responders. Civilian survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events can also experience PTSD. But, what is PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that people with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services states that children and adults with PTSD may feel anxious or stressed even when they are not in present danger.

“PTSD starts at different times for different people,” SAMHSA states. “Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later. PTSD is often related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma was repeated or not, what the individual’s proximity to the trauma was, and what their relationship is with the victim or perpetrator of the trauma.”

Overall, PTSD can have a profound impact on the brain, affecting various areas that are critical for emotional regulation, memory, and decision-making.

Understanding these changes can help with the development of effective treatments and therapies for PTSD, states brainline.org.

Additional resources:

≤ For information on how PTSD affects the brain’s functioning, visit https://www.brainline.org/article/how-ptsd-affects-brain

≤ The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ National Center for PTSD offers many resources for increasing understanding of the disorder and can be found at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp


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