Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that affects roughly 13 million people in the United States, and will affect seven to eight percent of the general population at some point in their lives. It is a condition that, even today, is misunderstood by many people and PTSD Awareness Day was created to help change that.
PTSD gained national prominence in 2007 when it was declared that June 27th would be known as PTSD Awareness Day. It honored Staff Sergeant Joel Biel, who struggled with the disorder, and was put in place to start an open dialogue about the condition, its symptoms and ways to get help. In 2014 the Senate dedicated the entire month of June to PTSD awareness and education.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychological condition that can affect veterans and non-veterans alike. It can occur when someone experiences a shocking or dangerous event, on the battlefield or in everyday life, such as a serious accident, or a violent personal assault.
Terms such as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” were once used to describe the symptoms of PTSD. However, the understanding of PTSD slowly began to evolve in 1980, when the disorder was officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Today the symptoms of PTSD are better understood and it is now recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-related condition.
For people living with PTSD, the symptoms can cause significant distress. People can suffer from one or many combinations of PTSD symptoms and they can vary in severity. The symptoms can range from sleeplessness and irritability to unwanted memories or flashbacks of the event and feeling emotionally detached, intense guilt and avoiding situations that are reminders of the trauma.
The specific nature of PTSD-related trauma varies greatly. While combat and combat-related military service can be traumatic, not everyone who serves under these conditions reacts in the same way; some may develop PTSD symptoms while others remain unaffected.
How can I help?
There are a lot of ways people can help those affected by PTSD. One of the most important ways is to encourage them to seek treatment. There are many innovative treatments offered today, such as animal-assisted therapy using PTSD-trained service animals, and help finding ways to cope with traumatic stress reactions. It is also important to know you or your loved are not alone in this fight.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has more information on resources for PTSD on its’ official site.