PTSD, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, impacts thousands of Canadians each year. According to the National Centre for PTSD, as many as 7 out of every 100 people will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at some point in their lives.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be the result of being witness to, having the knowledge of, or personally experiencing a distressing event – including but not limited to car accidents, robberies, and sexual assault. While PTSD can affect anyone, certain factors may put you more at risk than others. For example, if you’ve served in the military or work in the healthcare industry (i.e. a doctor, nurse, or first responder.) Women are also twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, and your chances also increase if you suffer from a pre-existing mental illness, eating disorder, engage in drug and/or alcohol abuse, or have a sleep disorder (such as insomnia or sleep apnea.) Those with a family history of mental illness may also be at an increased risk of developing PTSD, though research to find genetic components is ongoing. As these risk factors increase the likelihood that someone could develop PTSD, it’s also important to note that not everyone will, as how one person reacts to trauma may not be the same way someone else reacts to trauma. As such, the symptoms of PTSD will also vary from person to person. Symptoms of PTSD can be divided into four categories:
4. Negative thoughts/beliefs
Re-experiencing: This includes flashbacks or replaying the traumatic event in your mind, having recurring nightmares, as well as having a physical reaction (such as an increased heart rate or panic attack) when reminded of the traumatic event.
Avoidance: Actively avoiding people, places, situations and conversations that remind you of the traumatic event and making sure you keep yourself busy with different distractions so that you do not have time to occupy your mind with thoughts about the traumatic event.
Hyperarousal: You may feel on edge/irritable, have outburst of anger, feel as though you’re walking on eggshells/constantly on guard, jumpy/easily startled, and may also have trouble falling and staying asleep as well as trouble concentrating.
Negative thoughts/beliefs: This can include negative thoughts about yourself or those around you. You may also lose interest in activities you once found fun, distance yourself from others, and have trouble forming positive feelings (i.e. happiness and love.)
Like many types of mental illness, there is also a stigma attached to those who suffer from PTSD. Being dangerous to be around, incompetent, and unpredictable are all common stereotypes used to depict individuals with PTSD. It is these stereotypes that make it difficult for those suffering to reach out for help – which is why, as part of PTSD Awareness Month, the PTSD Association of Canada is working diligently to help break the stigma associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether you suffer from PTSD or not, the general public can also do their part to help break that stigma through education. Through their website at CMHA.ca, the Canadian Mental Health Association provides an in-depth look at PTSD, who it affects, how it affects them, and what can be done about it. Treatment for PTSD often includes a combination of medication, counselling, and self-help/support groups – not just for those directly affected by PTSD, but for their families as well. By redefining how PTSD is viewed and giving individuals better insight into this condition, it’s much easier for the general population to look at PTSD as something that is accepted rather than something that should be feared or judged.