Priceless Lives: PTSD


Hailee Wolf

Priceless Lives: PTSD 

PTSD is a disorder that occurs in those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or situation. This is a common disorder that can affect anyone but is treatable with the correct support through family and friends. PTSD is short for post-traumatic stress disorder which can cause more stress or co-occurring disorders.  

The diagnosis can include exposure to trauma, re-experienced events, avoidance and numbing, increased arousal, duration of at least one month or significant distress or impairment of social or occupational functioning. Some examples of why a person would feel this way is sexual assault, war, natural disaster, accidents or threat of death to self or others.  

PTSD has many causes and risk factors entangled through this disorder but is never caused by just one factor. The most commonly cited include genetic, brain structures, environmental and psychological. Genetic factors are mainly caused by anxiety disorders that run-in families but is NOT a definitive cause for this specific disorder. Unfortunately, this may make a person more vulnerable or exposed to developing PTSD after a traumatic event. Brain structure factors are caused when a certain area of the brain begins to regulate emotions and fears differently than those who develop PTSD after a traumatic event. The environmental factor includes people who have a history with trauma or stress are less likely to develop PTSD than those lacking a similar history. Also, children raised in families where addiction is present are at a higher risk of PTSD than those without such a household. Lastly, psychological factors include people who struggle with certain types of mental disorders. Depression and anxiety have been noted at a higher risk than other mental disorders.  

There are many signs and symptoms that are shown throughout PTSD that vary in severity based upon individual makeup of each person, co-occurring mental disorders and different support systems. There’s a large variety of symptoms and category types. The first category of symptoms is persistent, invasive and intrusive which are connected to the precipitating trauma and begin after the traumatic event. The symptoms for this category include distressing memories of the event, nightmares, dissociative episodes or flashbacks during which a person feels they are re-experiencing that event. Also, prolonged emotional distress when faced with triggers of such trauma and lastly physiological reactions to the triggers of the event. The next category is avoidance symptoms which attempt to reduce suffering levels of a person by avoiding all triggers and memories of the event. Symptoms include attempting to avoid people, places, activities, convos, objections and situations that may lead to disconnecting thoughts, feelings or memories of trauma. Also, efforts made to avoid anything that triggers distressing memories, feelings or thoughts of the event. The next category is negative mood symptoms which begins with a traumatic event but worsens overtime. Some symptoms may include inability to remember parts of the traumatic event, negative beliefs about oneself, others or the world around them, distorted thoughts about trauma that leads to assigning blame for event to themselves or another person. Constant negative mood state, inability to feel pleasure, feeling disconnected from others, or the inability to feel positive emotions. Next, the alterations in arousal symptoms which include irritability, angry outbursts without provocation (deliberately speak to make someone upset or annoyed), recklessness, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance, exaggerated startle response or sleep problems. The last two categories are depersonalization which is having a feeling of detachment from your body as though you’re looking down on yourself from above and de-realization which is a feeling as if you’re walking on water in a dream or alternate reality. Every person will experience different categories of symptoms from their PTSD.  

Many effects are caused by PTSD and can touch every area of a person’s life leaving nothing untouched. The longer the PTSD exists without treatment, the great the effects will be on a person. The most common effects include eating disorders, paranoia, difficulty regulating emotions or feelings, hard to maintain a job, inability to maintain stable relationships of any kind. Also, dissociative symptoms, depression, anger, nightmares, guilt, sleep issues, substance abuse, social phobia, hallucinations, self-harm, suicidal thoughts/attempts or completed suicide. These can get worse the longer the person goes without treatment.  

80% of people affected by PTSD usually have at least one other disorder which is called a co-occurring disorder. This could vary from major depression, dysthymia, bipolar, anxiety, adjustment disorders, substance use, personality disorders and sometimes alcoholism. This could get worse the longer left untreated as well as the effects of PTSD.  

A young Coloradoan has also felt the pressure of PTSD throughout her life personally. She was diagnosed with PTSD at the beginning of her freshman year of high school. She has co-occurring disorders including anxiety and mild depression which makes life challenging every day. She battles through obstacles that life throws at her every day and makes sure that at the end of the day, she feels happy and satisfied with how she got through the day. Some symptoms she gets includes flashbacks, avoidance, negative moods, paralysis and sometimes she will go to her safe place as a child which is, her depersonalization. She also feels de-realization when she has an attack because her mind takes her back to her traumatic event and makes everything around her look the same as that day. She has helped herself cope with her disorder by using prescribed medication, drawing or listening to music to relax and sometimes jumping in her car just to drive around town. She said some days she forgets she has it and other days it is so prevalent. She never had a real coping skill when she was younger, so her PTSD became hers. PTSD is not curable, but it is treatable once a person finds ways to cope with it. Her PTSD has adjusted her lifestyle because some days she will have attacks and other days she won’t. When she gets an attack, she feels scared and her mind goes back to the event. She tries to prepare herself every day for an attack that way she has more of an advantage to fight against it. She would like everyone with any mental disorder to know that it does not define who you are, a person must make an adjustment to their lifestyle.