In recognition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services wants to make sure that everyone understands the impact traumatic events can have. In some cases, experiencing trauma can result in lifelong anxiety and stress and can even lead to suicide.
It's important to recognize when you or someone you love may be experiencing PTSD.
Many Tennesseans have had their lives changed overnight as a result of a traumatic experience.
Trauma can come in many different forms and can cause physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual harm. The experience and impact is unique to every person.
Types of Trauma Associated with PTSD:
- Physical or sexual assault
- Natural disaster such as a tornado, flood, or fire
- Being in or witnessing a serious car accident
- Sudden or violent death of someone close
- Serious injury, major surgery, or life-threatening illness
- Domestic or family violence, dating violence, community violence
- War, terrorism, bullying, or political violence
"The way individuals respond to a traumatic event can vary," said Dr. Howard L. Burley, Jr., Chief Medical Officer for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. "There may be feelings of depression, fear, and grief. Many times the behavioral and physical responses can include dizziness, nausea, flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep pattern and/or appetite, as well as withdrawal from daily activities. It can take weeks, months, even years for individuals to begin to feel and behave normal again."
Not all individuals who experience traumatic events need to seek treatment. In some cases, individuals have reported feeling better within a few months of an event. However, if reactions linger too long, such as more than a month or get worse, it is likely the individual has developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and should seek treatment.
"Someone experiencing PTSD will typically mentally and emotionally relive the event," said Dr. Burley. "In some cases they will go out of their way to make constant efforts to avoid reminders of the event, and develop signs of overwhelming sensitivity to changes in the local environment."
Studies indicate between 11-20% of veterans who have served overseas in recent combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom experience PTSD in a given year.
"Tennessee is home to many military service members. In these communities' adjacent to military bases like Clarksville, Tennessee, there is typically a high number of veterans with PTSD," said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. "There's a tendency for former soldiers to settle near bases once they leave the service. This means we need to ensure there is a network of support in and near those communities for our veterans and their loved ones."
There are a variety of treatment options for PTSD. Your physician may prescribe one or more of the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral ("talk") Therapy
- Support Group
"Without treatment, PTSD can lead to substance abuse, reliving the terror, heart attacks, depression, dementia, suicide, and/or stroke," said Commissioner Varney. "Recovery is a gradual, ongoing process and taking that first step toward treatment can be the start of a more manageable and happy life."
PTSD in the United States is often linked to combat:
- An estimated 5.2 million adults (3.6%) will experience PTSD annually
- Estimates for military personnel tend to be much higher