The importance of awareness
I lived with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for years before finding the correct course of treatment or diagnosis, and some people go decades longer without ever knowing “what’s wrong with them” or “how to fix it.” Awareness around the immediate signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—along with the acknowledgment that it isn’t only an affliction that war veterans struggle with—has become slightly more prevalent today: nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, reliving the event over and over again, fearing for your safety. Examples of include being directly impacted by acts of war, terrorism, or being the victim of a crime, a natural disaster or accident, witnessing or being a direct victim of sexual or domestic abuse, medical trauma, the loss of a loved one, even growing up in a dangerous or impoverished neighborhood or a dangerous or unstable home or family environment. Sometimes, symptoms take months or years to surface, and, when they do, they can sometimes be hard to detect, seemingly unrelated to anything you went through. For National Stress Awareness Month, I spoke with experts who help connect the dots between some of the pervasive and painful—along with some blink-or-you’ll-miss-it—reactions you may be having to everyday stressors and triggers. Try taking these steps to heal from a traumatic experience.
Initial signs and symptoms
When looking at the various ways people attempt to cope with exposure to one or a series of traumatic events, it’s important to recognize the ways that they may manifest, says Gary Brown, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles who has worked with organizations like NASA and the Department of Defense in addition to seeing patients in his everyday practice. “You probably have a sense that something is wrong, you don’t quite feel like you normally do, and might alternate between feeling extremely upset or possibly nothing at all,” he says.