PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was once considered a problem only for soldiers who returned from war. It was a bi-product of living under terrifying and life-threatening conditions for an extended period of time. But doctors and psychologists have learned that anyone who has been a victim of a traumatic event can suffer from PTSD. So why am I taking about this today? Because July 27th each year has been designated at National PTSD Awareness Day.
PTSD has a profound effect on those who suffer from it. The vast number of humans suffering from this illness only tells half the story, though. The trauma and anxiety associated with Post Traumatic Stress is a constant burden for those who suffer from it. As many as 20% of all adult Americans who have suffered a traumatic event, have PTSD. And that is only one country. Just imagine those who live in countries that are constantly ravaged by war and violence!
There are many causes of PTSD that are non-military or war-related. Things like natural disasters, violent crimes, traffic accidents, abuse, and neglect. PTSD can happen to anyone at at any age. You don't necessarily have to be the victim of a traumatic event either; just witnessing one can be enough to set the PTSD wheels in motion. It has been discovered recently that people who have spent significant time in a hospital intensive care unit can also suffer from this illness. And the likelihood of PTSD symptoms occurring after a non-military traumatic event is even greater than it is for those who are combat veterans!
Today there are many great treatments available for those who suffer the debilitating effects of PTSD; Cognitive Processing Therapy, (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy are two common ones that are used in both veterans hospitals and in private practice. But other treatments do exist and are gaining in popularity. One is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR. This is a relatively new technique that is particularly helpful in treating PTSD. Another of the newer approaches is neurofeedback (NFB), also called EEG Biofeedback. It's a proven way to help the brain function better through brain-training exercises. Neurofeedback can specifically target those areas of the brain that aren't functioning properly in PTSD patients; the amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the hippocampus. With all these wonderful options available to therapists, those suffering from these terrible flashbacks can finally find relief. The problem, however, stems from getting a correct diagnosis.
I have several friends, both human and frog, who suffer from PTSD so I know, first-flipper (first-hand) how devastating this illness can be. What's interesting to me is that animals, too, can suffer from their own version of PTSD. Dogs, especially, seems to have very similar episodes to those of humans, if they have been the victim of repeated neglect and abuse.
The Unites States Senate established PTSD Awareness Day, in 2010 as a way to bring attention to this far-reaching illness. And, unfortunately, the number of people suffering from this terrible problem will continue to grow as our society continues to experience more and more traumatic events. If you know of someone who suffers from PTSD, reach out to them today. Let them know there is help and hope.
And don't forget to use #NationalPTSDAwarenessDay on all your social media.