What is PTSD


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- [Woman] I didn't even want to go to sleep. The nightmares were so bad. - [Man] That image kept coming back to me. I didn't want to remember it, but there it was. - [Narrator] I felt like I was right back there in the middle of that horrible day. The smells, the sounds, it was so real. - [Man] I tried to go grocery shopping, but I couldn't be around all those people without seeing the exit. - [Narrator] These are the voices of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Almost everyone lives through something traumatic at some point in life. Most people have a lot of distress right after a trauma happens, but begin to feel better over time. For other people, the distress sticks around and they begin to have symptoms that really affect their lives. For these people, it is almost as if the trauma is still happening, all the time, everywhere, long after it has passed. I know, one of these voices is mine. What do we mean by trauma? When we're talking about PTSD, a trauma is a horrible experience where you might have felt afraid for your life or you were injured, physically or sexually, or were afraid you would be. You could also witness a trauma or hear about it happening to someone you care about. First responders, medical people, and clergy can also experience trauma by hearing others talk about it. For me, it was combat. I saw some really horrible things and I often thought I might be killed. PTSD develops in some people and not in others. Everyone experiences horrible things differently, and everyone reacts differently, sometimes for years or decades after the event. If you experience post-traumatic stress, it does not mean you're weak or that you can't handle hard things. It may make you feel weak or unsafe, but a lot of strong, brave people are affected by PTSD. And it is treatable. Your provider might think about a diagnosis of PTSD if you've lived through something awful and if you have some specific symptoms for more than one month. Intrusion or re-experiencing symptoms. This is the memory of the trauma coming back. It can show up as unwanted memories, nightmares, flashbacks, or feeling horrible after being reminded of it. For me, I kept seeing this one image of a Marine who had just died. And that memory haunted me. Avoidance symptoms. People go out of their way to avoid anything that reminds them of what happened. Some people avoid things like thinking about the trauma. Others avoid people or places or anything else that makes them remember. I couldn't deal with crowded restaurants or movie theaters. I felt unsafe there, so I stayed away. And it affected my family life a lot. Negative changes in thoughts or feelings. This can seem like depression, or thinking I'm not safe. I felt sad and didn't feel interested in the activities I used to love. I isolated myself. Other people feel self-blame, or might not remember the event well. Some people feel numb or disconnected. Changes in reactivity or arousal. This means your body reacts to things much more than it used to. You feel irritable, you might take risks or act self-destructive. A lot of times you have trouble concentrating and you're always on guard. I was jumpy and loud noises really startled me for a while. I also couldn't sleep for months after coming home and had to take medication. PTSD makes people feel horrible, but I found a way to ask for help. I learned there are several treatments proved to work for combat veterans like me, as well as for survivors of all other types of trauma. These therapies have names like CPT, PE, and EMDR. And they help people get through the trauma by learning to change how they think and feel about it. I was able to get back to living. PTSD is challenging, but there is hope. Talk to your doctor and get some help because treatment works. People can learn to live again. I know, I did.