Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition impacting those who have suffered through a traumatic event. Traumatic events may include military combat, sexual or physical violence or abuse, but may also include accidents and natural disasters.
According to the National Center for PTSD, 6% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and 12 million adults in the United States have PTSD during a given year. Since 2014 June has been designated as PTSD awareness month. In 2010 June 27th was designated PTSD Awareness Day after Joe Biel, a staff sergeant from the national guard, died by suicide after two tours in Iraq.
PTSD can affect children and adults, and symptoms can appear soon after the traumatic event but oftentimes may not appear for months or years later. PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms persist for more than a month and interfere with work or home life.
Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing The traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares. Flashbacks are often triggered by sites or smells reminiscent of the event. Those who suffer also avoid situations that may be similar to the event, such as large crowds, or for those who were in an accident will avoid driving. Those who suffer from PTSD often have excessive guilt or negative thoughts, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and feeling excessively jittery or irritable are also common. For some, alcohol, drug abuse and smoking are often used to self-medicate and is also considered a symptom of PTSD.
Fortunately, there are treatments available such as psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy, as well as a treatment known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. There are also traditional antidepressant medications prescribed, which, when used in combination with therapies, are quite successful. Other self-management strategies include meditation and mindfulness. Service animals, especially dogs, are quite helpful for many in the military. There are newer treatments, such as the use of virtual reality, and some emerging experimental treatments that, although popularized by social media and potentially beneficial, are not yet verified by rigorous science.
If you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms that may suggest post-traumatic stress disorder, please seek help from your mental health or medical provider, as treatment can be effective and most people can recover.
Dr. John Reyes, MD FACP, is a board-certified internist and Fellow of the American College of Physicians who lives in the Cove. He works for Northwell Health at his practice at 70 West Main Street in Oyster Bay and also in Glen Cove; and also serves as the Associate Medical Director of Glen Cove Hospital and Medical Director of Glengariff Health Care Center and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell.