National PTSD Awareness Day on June 27 is marked annually to call attention to effective treatments available to the millions of people – adults and children – who experience PTSD. This blog is dedicated to helping you understand PTSD symptoms and treatments.
PTSD is the name or diagnosis of a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event or stressor. Stressors that can trigger PTSD include events such as experiences in warfare, motor vehicle accidents, robberies, natural disasters, having a loved one die by homicide or suicide, or being the victim of a sexual assault or of child abuse or neglect. Not all who develop PTSD have had a dangerous experience. Some who suddenly lose a loved one can also develop the condition.
PTSD affects people of all ages and socio-economic groups. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 8 in 100 people will experience PTSD in their lifetimes. Women are more likely to experience it that men. It can impact one’s occupational or academic success and wellbeing. Having PTSD also puts one at higher risk for other physical ailments and mental health conditions including alcohol and drug misuse and suicide.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, nightmares, sadness, anxiety, and fearfulness after experiencing life threatening or traumatic events. These are our body’s and our mind’s normal reactions to an acutely stressful event. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had the same reactions after an ugly encounter with a saber-toothed tiger or an oversized bear! For most people, these reactions lesson in intensity and go away after a few days or weeks. But for a small number of people these symptoms persist, cause distress and impact daily activities.
PTSD has many symptoms that vary from person to person, but the hallmark of PTSD is recurrent, involuntary, disturbing, and intrusive memories. Children are often less able to verbalize these experiences and instead may express these intrusive memories through play. When any of these reactions persist for a few months after the traumatic event, it is then that a person should seek mental health assistance to confirm a diagnosis and get treatment.
PTSD can be effectively treated, and most treatments are covered by health insurance. One treatment avenue is psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy provided by a licensed mental health professional or a psychiatrist. Effective talk therapies educate people about the symptoms, teach skills that help people identify the triggers for symptoms, teach skills to manage the symptoms, provide tips for better sleep and help people deal with the shame and guilt that are sometimes associated with the traumatic event. A common evidence-based psychotherapy approach is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is another effective talk therapy treatment for PTSD. Mental health professionals also connect people with peer support groups where members can discuss their day to day problems and successes with others experiencing the same condition.
A second treatment is medication with psycho-active drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional. These medications are often a type called anti-depressants. They help people control PTSD symptoms such as sadness, worry, and sleep disturbances. Given the exposure many veterans have had to traumatic experiences in war, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs provides specialized treatment services for veterans. You can reach them by phone at 800-273-8255. Veteran’s Affairs also provides a helpful online PTSD treatment decision aid which you can find at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/decisionaid/.
Espyr’s Services For Traumatic Events
Espyr provides many services that assist people who have experienced traumatic events. Annually, Espyr provides over 500 critical incident responses. Some may be as brief as an hour or two debriefing bank employees after a robbery; some may be a week long deployment as in responses after a hurricane. These educational services help to normalize reactions and provide tips about coping with personal responses to traumatic events. They also inform people about when and how to seek further assistance. Espyr’s mental health consultants also help guide, support, and provide resources to managers whose team has experienced a traumatic incident.
Espyr provides Employee and Student Assistance Programs (EAPs and SAPs) that serve as a barrier-free means to get no cost professional assessments for PTSD via tele-mental health or through in person visits with counselors. Espyr also provides screening and wellbeing assessments for law enforcement, first responders and healthcare professionals who are frequently exposed to traumatic events in their daily work. Another Espyr service related to PTSD is TalkNow, a 24/7 problem-solving and emotional support line staffed by mental health professionals that can also connect people with PTSD symptoms with resources, referrals, and assistance.
If you know someone who has experienced a traumatic event and might be experiencing PTSD symptoms, reach out. Just ask if they would like to talk. Help them start down a path to assessment and treatment that can improve their quality of life.
Here are several resources where you can learn more about PTSD.
Espyr’s innovative coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.