June 27, 2013 is PTSD Awareness Day

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In 2010, Congress named June 27 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). Since then, the month of June is used to raise awareness and educate the public about this disorder and its effective treatments so everyone can help people affected with PTSD.

What causes PTSD and what are the symptoms?
PTSD develops after a traumatic or terrifying event that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. This may be the result when someone has been harmed or witnesses a harmful event. PTSD originally gained awareness among war veterans, but it can be the result of a variety of traumatic events: mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, natural disasters, etc.

The National Institute of Mental Health categorizes PTSD symptoms into 3 categories:

     
  1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
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    • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
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    • Bad dreams
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    • Frightening thoughts.
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  2. Avoidance symptoms:

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    • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
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    • Feeling emotionally numb
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    • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
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    • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
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    • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
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  3. Hyper arousal symptoms:

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    • Being easily startled
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    • Feeling tense or “on edge”
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    • Having difficulty sleeping and/or having angry outbursts
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While there are a couple treatment options for PTSD (psychotherapy and medication), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only two medications for treating adults:

     
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
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  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
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Both of these medications are antidepressants, used to treat depression. They may help control PTSD symptoms such as sadness, worry, anger, and feeling numb inside. Taking these medications may make the process of   psychotherapy easier.

Take the Step: Raise PTSD Awareness
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has compiled 10 steps to help raise PTSD awareness:

     
  1. Know more about PTSD.
  2.   Understand common reactions to trauma and when those reactions might be PTSD.  
  3. Challenge your beliefs about treatment.
  4.   PTSD treatment can help. We now have effective PTSD treatments that can make a difference in the lives of people with PTSD.  
  5. Explore the options for those with PTSD.
  6.   Find out where to get help for PTSD and learn how to choose a therapist.  
  7. Reach out. Make a difference.
  8.   You can help a family member with PTSD, including assisting your Veteran who needs care. Know there is support for friends and family too.  
  9. Know the facts.
  10.   More than half of U.S. adults will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. How common is PTSD? For Veterans and people who have been through violence and abuse, the number is higher.  
  11. Expand your understanding.
  12.   Learn about assessment and how to find out if someone has PTSD. Complete a brief checklist or take an online screen to see if a professional evaluation is needed. June 20th is National PTSD Screening Day.  
  13. Share PTSD information.
  14.   Share handouts, brochures, or wallet cards about trauma and PTSD.  
  15. Meet people who have lived with PTSD.
  16.   Visit AboutFace, an online gallery dedicated to Veterans talking about how PTSD treatment turned their lives around.  
  17. Take advantage of technology.
  18.   Download PTSD Coach mobile app and treatment companion apps in the National Center for PTSD’s growing collection of mobile offerings.  
  19. Keep informed.
  20.   Get the latest information about PTSD by connecting on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  

“There are many barriers that keep people with PTSD from seeking the help they need. Knowledge and awareness, however, are key to overcoming these barriers. For those living with PTSD, knowing there are treatments that   work, for example, can lead them to seek needed care.

“Greater public awareness of PTSD can help reduce the stigma of this mental health problem and overcome negative stereotypes that may keep many people from pursuing treatment.” - Dr. Matthew Friedman, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD

“As Americans, every day of the year should be focused on assisting those who have served this nation so bravely,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “But in June, we take special care in focusing on those with PTSD.”

 

National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs. (2013, May 21).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),National Institute of Mental Health. (2013, May).

 

 


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