Anyone can get posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is commonly associated with military experiences or violence, but there are a variety of stressful, traumatic or upsetting situations that can contribute to its development.
What Puts a Person at Risk for PTSD?
Any traumatic experience can lead to PTSD. Just a few potential triggers include the following:
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Childhood abuse
- Abuse in adulthood
- Vehicle or other accidents
- Military violence
- Natural disasters
And you don’t have to experience any of these directly. The National Institute on Mental Health explains, “Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.”1 Knowing a friend or family member has been in danger or experienced trauma of their own can lead to PTSD.
Other risk factors make PTSD more likely for those both in and out of the military. Your genes influence, although they don’t determine, PTSD development. The duration and severity of trauma influence the likelihood of developing PTSD. Those experiencing repeated and ongoing trauma, such as long-term abuse, or direct and severe trauma are more likely to develop the disorder.
If you aren’t in the military, you may not recognize PTSD symptoms or even be aware you’re at risk. PTSD symptoms vary based on individual experiences, but they may include the following:
- More than one month of bad dreams
- More than one month of feeling worried, guilty, alone or on edge
- Experiencing flashbacks to a traumatic event or experience
- Uncontrollable negative thoughts
- Avoiding places or people connected to a traumatic memory
- Changes in sleeping patterns
You may experience some, all or none of these symptoms. Just know that if things don’t feel right, if you’ve experienced direct or indirect trauma PTSD may be involved. Talk with a mental health care professional to get a comprehensive diagnosis and action plan.
Getting Help for PTSD
Recognize the potential for non-military PTSD. Look for symptoms. Get a diagnosis. And then get help. PTSD does not go away or get better on its own. However it is very treatable, and several recovery options exist and are effective. The World Health Organization warns against medications as a first-line approach. It recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as proven, effective options for many individuals.2
Every recovery is unique, so choose a treatment program or provider that sees you for you. Choose treatment that can address co-occurring substance use issues or additional mental health concerns. Call Black Bear at 706-914-2327 to learn more about getting a diagnosis, discovering your options and beginning a comprehensive, integrated treatment program today.
1 “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health. Feb. 2016.
2 “WHO Releases Guidance on Mental Health Care After Trauma.” World Health Organization. 6 Aug. 2013.