What does it mean to have PTSD?

Trauma can affect your life in many ways. There is the immediate impact of the experience itself, but then there may also be lingering effects that manifest themselves unexpectedly. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is usually diagnosed after someone has experienced symptoms for four weeks or longer.

PTSD has also been known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” However, we now know that civilians as well as veterans can experience PTSD after a significant trauma occurs in their lives. And, witnessing a traumatic event can sometimes have just as big an impact as actually experiencing that event, on a person’s ability to recover from PTSD.

Particularly in light of recent traumatic events across the country, including the shooting of three women at the Veterans Home of California by a veteran experiencing severe PTSD, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of PTSD.

Most people understand the idea that a traumatic event can cause reactions related to that event. For example, if you were involved in a shooting, the sound of a car backfiring can be frightening and distressful. There are also some less obvious symptoms you might not connect with PTSD at first.

After experiencing a traumatic event, you may have trouble concentrating or remembering details of the event itself. You may also experience unexplained physical symptoms. These are called somatic complaints and can also lead to serious emotional distress and challenges in functioning on a daily basis.

The Veterans Administration lists several PTSD symptoms that you should be aware of – and seek help for – if you feel you have been experiencing them.

  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have nightmares or flashbacks about the traumatic event. You may also experience triggers, including seeing, hearing, or smelling something that causes you to relive the event.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal).

If you recognize yourself in any of these PTSD symptoms, seek out help. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing PTSD, reach out and learn more. There are many organizations that are here for you, including VP2H. Check out the VP2H Resource Portal to find out more about the resources available to you.

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