Why PTSD Is More Common Than You Think
Updated: May 5
PTSD, the abbreviated form of "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," is an anxiety disorder that is marked by persistent worry, agitation, fear and reliving the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, and attacks brought on by triggers. Although it's most widely known as a condition affecting war veterans, having once been called “shell shock”, it has now been discovered that anyone can develop PTSD. If you have faced a traumatic event, and have found that you’ve been struggling to recover from the trauma, here are some signs that you might have PTSD.
What Is It?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is, as its name implies, a response that happens after some form of trauma. Typically, PTSD affects people who have lived through a horrific trauma that caused significant life changes, whether that be a car accident or being involved in a bank robbery. But people can also have PTSD from traumatic experiences their brain did not have time to properly process and overcome. In response, your brain forms specific reactions to events (called “triggers”) that remind it of the initial incident in an attempt to keep you out of future danger. It affects your natural fear responses and sets them off balance, making it difficult for your mind to determine what is actually safe.
What Causes It?
Anything that can cause someone trauma can cause them to develop PTSD; even something as common as car accidents can cause it. What's important is to ask yourself how you feel, not whether or not you have a right to. When you experience trauma, three major parts of the brain activate and those are the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is connected to your fear response, and your hippocampus affects emotions, learning, and memory. Trauma is first experienced as acute stress, and the activation of our body's fight-or-flight response makes it difficult for the brain to process things rationally. Because you are so intent on overcoming in the present moment, your brain stores the trauma in an unhealthy way, causing it to overreact every time you see or hear something that reminds you of the initial event.
How to Treat It
Although strides have been made towards the treatment of PTSD, many people are ashamed of their trauma, fearing that their PTSD symptoms are a sign of weakness. PTSD is a neurological problem. Although it is often treated through mental health counseling, psychologists understand the biological roots of PTSD, and treatment today often works on rewiring the parts of the brain that cause traumatic stress. The two most common therapies for PTSD today are EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). These therapies focus on addressing the beliefs you hold about your trauma and reframing them into more positive, less upsetting thoughts. As you become desensitized to your triggers, your PTSD symptoms will begin to diminish as well.
Here’s another article you might enjoy: What to Do If You Think You Might Have PTSD