Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as persistent and invasive thoughts of being in danger or reliving a traumatic event when they are not in immediate danger or within the traumatic event. Some people may associate PTSD with people who have experienced some form of war combat; however PTSD affects every 8th person out of 100. PTSD can be result from vicarious trauma, experiencing traumatic events (war, sexual assault, abuse, etc.)or experiencing a sudden or violent death of a loved one. Symptoms of PTSD can be present immediately or start a year after the event. The symptoms have to be severe enough to interfere in relationships, work and personal life.
The major diagnostic criteria, as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, are
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offer a more in depth symptoms and causes list. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, on the other hand, provides more information on causes, co-morbid disorders and treatment.
The importance on knowing this information lies on the fact that we don’t all experience trauma in the same way. Some of us are less resilient than others, and that is okay. What is not okay is shaming others for not being able to process difficult situations faster or in a healthier way than others. Trauma is the common cold of mental disorders; we all have experienced it at least once in our lives. It may not turn into a chronic mental disorder, but it is present and it reshapes how we perceive life. Trauma can lead us to feel stunted emotionally and psychologically. It could leave us hyper-vigilant or perpetually scared. Trauma is a pervasive mental health problem that needs to be taken seriously.
Experiencing trauma and being affected by it does not make us weak; it makes us human. Being able to seek help and treatment is key and necessary for a healthy recovery. I offer you this page that helps screen for potential PTSD symptoms. It is by no means a diagnostic test but rather a screening test. For major concerns and actual diagnostic test contact your psychologist, counselor and/ or your psychiatrist.