Breaking the Silence: National PTSD Awareness Month and How We Can Help

Home » Blog » Breaking the Silence: National PTSD Awareness Month and How We Can Help

June marks National PTSD Awareness Month, an essential time to deepen our understanding and increase support for those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition impacts significant portions of the population—about 5 out of every 100 adults in the U.S. experience PTSD in any given year. 

Through National PTSD Awareness Month, we aim to shed light on what PTSD is, explore its profound impact on individuals and communities, and emphasize the importance of compassionate support and effective treatment. 

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as warfare, natural disasters, serious accidents, or personal assaults. While it’s commonly associated with veterans or first responders, it’s essential to understand that PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced significant trauma.

The core of PTSD involves persistent mental and emotional stress as a result of experiencing or witnessing a profoundly traumatic incident. Symptoms of PTSD can vary greatly, but they generally fall into four categories:

  1. Intrusive memories may include recurrent, unwanted, distressing memories of the traumatic event or flashbacks where it feels like the event is happening again.
  2. Avoidance, where individuals may steer clear of conversations, people, or places that remind them of the trauma.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood, such as ongoing negative thoughts about oneself or others, emotional numbness, or a lack of interest in once enjoyable activities.
  4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions, also known as arousal symptoms, can include being easily startled, feeling tense, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing angry outbursts.

These symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. It’s also worth noting that experiencing any of these symptoms immediately after a traumatic event doesn’t necessarily mean one will develop PTSD; for some, these reactions may be part of the body’s natural response to stress.

PTSD Facts and Statistics

PTSD is more common than many might think and affects individuals across various demographics. Here are some crucial facts and statistics that underscore the prevalence and impact of this disorder:

  • Approximately 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • Women have a two to three times higher risk of developing PTSD compared to men. 
  • The risk of developing PTSD is higher among veterans and active-duty military personnel, with studies suggesting that 11-20% of those who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience PTSD in a given year.
  • PTSD also significantly impacts first responders, including police, firefighters, and paramedics, who are exposed to traumatic events more frequently than the general population.

The Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Recognizing the specific signs and symptoms of PTSD is crucial for understanding and supporting those affected. Here is a focused list of symptoms that can manifest in individuals with PTSD:

  • Nightmares: Frequent, distressing dreams related to the traumatic event.
  • Panic Attacks: Sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort that may include heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, or feelings of impending doom.
  • Aggressive Behavior: Displays of irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive actions that are often uncontrollable and out of character.
  • Uncontrollable Thoughts: Invasive, unwanted thoughts about the trauma that disrupt daily activities.
  • Severe Anxiety: Persistent worry or fear that interferes with one’s daily life.
  • Emotional Numbness: An inability to experience pleasure or interest in activities, feeling detached from others and emotionally flat.
  • Hyperarousal: Being easily startled or on high alert, exhibiting exaggerated startle response.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Challenges with focusing on tasks at work or home.
  • Excessive Guilt or Shame: Persistent feelings of guilt or shame that are not proportionate to the individual’s actions.
  • Self-Destructive Behavior: Engaging in risky or harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse or reckless driving.
  • Social Withdrawal: Avoiding social activities and isolating oneself from family and friends.
  • Physical Symptoms: Unexplained aches and pains, muscle tension, or chronic fatigue.

PTSD Treatment Plan

Effectively managing PTSD requires a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Various treatment options have shown effectiveness in helping people regain control of their lives. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, many patients with this condition recover and no longer meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD after treatment. 

Here’s an overview of some common and effective treatment strategies:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps patients recognize and change thought patterns that lead to troublesome emotions and behaviors.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Involves gradually exposing patients to trauma-related memories and stimuli to diminish their power.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Eye movements help process and make sense of traumatic memories.
  • Medications: Professionals commonly prescribe antidepressants to help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, including depression and anxiety. These can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
  • Group Therapy: Allows individuals to connect with others who have experienced similar traumas, fostering a sense of community and shared understanding.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Incorporating regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing mindfulness, and establishing a stable routine can support overall mental health and well-being.
  • Innovative Treatments: New approaches like virtual reality therapy, which simulates environments similar to those experienced during traumatic events, are emerging and show promise in treating PTSD.

How to Support Someone with PTSD

Supporting a loved one with PTSD can be challenging, but it’s crucial for their recovery journey. Here are some practical tips on how to provide meaningful support:

  • Be Patient: Recovery from PTSD is a process that takes time. Be patient and understanding as your loved one works through their treatment.
  • Learn About PTSD: Educating yourself about PTSD can help you understand what your loved one is experiencing. This knowledge can make you a more empathetic supporter.
  • Recognize Triggers: PTSD triggers can vary widely. They might include certain sights, sounds, or smells. By understanding what triggers your loved one, you can help avoid or manage these situations.
  • Offer Emotional Support: Let them know you are there for them without judgment. Listen actively when they choose to share their feelings and experiences.
  • Encourage Professional Help: While support from family and friends is vital, professional treatment is often necessary. Gently encourage your loved one to seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Set Boundaries: Both you and your loved one need boundaries to ensure the relationship remains healthy. Understand your limits and communicate them.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Supporting someone with PTSD can be draining. Ensure you care for your mental and physical health, and seek support if needed.
  • Stay Positive: Offer hope and remind your loved one of the progress they’ve made. Positive reinforcement can motivate continued effort toward recovery.

Resources and Getting Help

As we actively recognize National PTSD Awareness Month, knowing where to find the proper support and resources is important. Here are several ways you can reach out for help and encourage others to do the same:

  • Educational Resources: Familiarize yourself with PTSD by accessing information from reputable sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the PTSD Foundation of America, or local mental health organizations.
  • Support Groups: Participate in support groups to connect with others experiencing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and coping strategies can provide comfort and insights.
  • Professional Help: If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, consider seeking help from mental health professionals. Therapists specialized in trauma can offer significant support and effective treatment plans.
  • Hotlines: Utilize mental health hotlines for immediate assistance, especially during crises. These services can provide guidance and direct you to local resources.
  • Spread Awareness: Help educate others about PTSD by sharing information, resources, and personal stories. Awareness can lead to greater understanding and support within the community.

At Onyx Behavioral Health, we provide comprehensive care and various treatment options tailored to individual needs. Overcoming the challenges of PTSD is possible with the right resources and support, and we are here to help guide you or your loved ones through this process.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the proper support and treatment, individuals with PTSD can lead fulfilling lives. Let’s use this National PTSD Awareness Month to spread knowledge and hope, encouraging those affected to embark on their journey toward recovery.

Written by: Onyx Behavioral Health Admin

The Onyx Behavioral Health Editorial Team includes content experts that contribute to this online publication. Editors and mental health experts review our blogs carefully for accuracy and relevance. We reference authority organizations such as The National Institute of Mental Health and NAMI for the latest research, data, and news to provide our readers with the most up-to-date mental illness and recovery-related content.

Recent Posts

What to Do in Between Therapy Sessions

What to Do in Between Therapy Sessions

While therapy is a major step toward your mental well-being, the time between sessions can sometimes be challenging. You might encounter daily triggers that are tough to handle or find it difficult to maintain the progress you've made. These struggles are a normal...