Can You Have PTSD and Not Know It?
This Answer and 7 Others About Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been called shell shock, battle fatigue, or soldier's heart but it has always remained a severe mental health disorder.
The VA explains that the number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
But PTSD does not harm only combat veterans, it can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age. And therefore we’ve compiled the top asked questions regarding PTSD to help you or a loved one understand the disorder and how to seek help.
8. What Causes PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a highly emotional or physically injuring event. In addition, a person can experience PTSD through witnessing the event or learning about a loved one who was harmed. The events surrounding the causes of PTSD can range from:
The threat of death.
Extreme bodily harm.
Being in military combat or warfare.
Surviving childhood trama, such as domestic or sexual abuse .
Serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care.
Childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes or tornados.
Surviving a car crash, fire, or other disruptive event.
When a person is exposed to a traumatic incident, the human body undergoes a physiological change. In other words, the body’s “fight-or-flight'' stress response is thrown out of balance. When an injurious event occurs, people have two different reactions: mobilization and immobilization.
Mobilization is the fight-or-flight factor. You’ll experience an adrenaline burst, an automatic physiological response to what’s happening. This hormone causes you to react more quickly through enhanced blood flow. After the event, your body naturally calms down in order to process what happened.
If you have PTSD, immobilization has occurred. Your body experienced such an overwhelming amount of stress that the nervous system was unable to “right” itself. Your physiological state has altered, and suddenly you’re “stuck”. Even though the danger has passed, you may find it extremely difficult to transition back to your regular mental or emotional state of being.
7. How is Stress Different From Post-Traumatic Stress?
There are many factors that differentiate normal day-to-day stress from post-traumatic stress (PTS), including mental health conditions and seeking out proper treatments.
Stress occurs when faced with life demands or threats. When faced with a dangerous situation, your body floods a chemical called adrenaline, or the “fight-or-flight” hormone, into the bloodstream. This is the body’s way of creating a “stress response”, meaning you’ll either run from the danger, or attack it head on. When these stressors work properly, a person can remain alert, focused, and aware of their surroundings.
While normal stress may not always be harmful, PTS nearly always is, especially without treatment. PTS is spurred on by a traumatic moment, such as death of a loved one, near death experiences, natural disasters, or other life-threatening occurrences causing a heightened stress response. This creates greater physical and psychological distress than someone who has not experienced it.
6. What Are the Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Now that we understand what PTSD is and how it dramatically differs from regular stress, we must understand its signs and symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD signs are put into 4 groups: “Intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.”
If a person experiences nightmares, flashbacks, and continuous thoughts of a tragic event, this may be a sign of PTSD. This can cause extreme emotional duress as well as physical reactions like shaking, panic attacks, and heart palpitations.
If you’ve ever met a person who has experienced PTSD, you may find they avoid discussing the trauma. They may even exhibit these behaviors:
Avoid people who were involved,
Unable to participate in events that are at the specific location in which the trauma originated,
Unable to recall any details from the event,
Emotionally numb and detached,
Unable to be intimate or express any affection toward others.
Changes In Thinking and Mood
PTSD has the ability to take over a person’s thoughts and feelings in a detrimental way. Some may be unable to have positive thoughts at all. Negative thinking and massive mood changes occur frequently. This would include persistent feelings of dread, guilt, and shame as well as:
The feeling they can't trust anyone.
The feeling of the world being unsafe.
The feeling that nobody understands.
Changes In Physical and Emotional Reactions
Emotional and physical reactions, or “arousal symptoms”, can severely alter a person’s ability to handle day-to-day routines, job functions, and simple tasks. PTSD, when not properly treated or diagnosed, can cause a person to experience:
Outbursts, erratic, and reckless behavior.
Self-destructive tendencies, including drug and alcohol abuse.
Lack of focus.
Be aware that PTSD symptoms can take time to surface, sometimes years after the event. If you’ve experienced PTSD symptoms, it may be time to seek professional assistance before they worsen.
5. Can You Have PTSD And Not Know It?
The answer is: Yes. A person can be experiencing many symptoms of PTSD and still not know they have it. How can that be? There are a couple reasons.
In some cases, the victim of trauma may not remember what happened. When a traumatic event occurs, the brain can block out the memory. This is called dissociation, or a detachment from reality. As a result, a sufferer can experience emotional duress, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms without an understanding of why. Therefore, many times PTSD has been misdiagnosed because there is no “remembered” event that would have triggered these emotional and physical reactions.
Mental health disorders continually remain a stigma in today’s society. Without proper education about PTSD, many sufferers may never understand what they are experiencing.
Fear plays a huge factor. PTSD sufferers can feel insurmountable guilt and shame for having the symptoms they do, thus paralyzing their ability to seek help.
4. Why Are Some People, like Active Duty and the Military, More Susceptible to PTSD?
It’s been reported that many people who experience trauma never develop PTSD. According to a 2017 World Mental Health Survey, “nearly 83% of U.S. respondents were exposed to severe and potentially traumatic events, just over 8% were diagnosed with lifetime PTSD.”
This begs the question: Why are some people prone to developing this mental disorder, while others aren’t? There are several risk factors behind this:
Gender: Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
Genetics: Some mental health disorders, such as depression are genetic and can be passed on, thus creating a larger risk for PTSD.
Lacking social support: Positive social and family support systems are extremely important. These connections can aid in relieving stress and dealing with trauma. If a person lacks this, they are vulnerable and at risk for PTSD.
Pre-existing health conditions: This refers to mental health problems. Sufferers of anxiety and depression increase the chances of PTSD.
Ongoing stress: A person who is constantly dealing with day-to-day stressors can experience physical and emotional issues. This makes them susceptible to PTSD due to coping skills being reduced.
History of abuse: Complex PTSD can occur on people who repeatedly experience trauma. This includes history of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. The overall effects of these traumas are reinforced.
Previous trauma: In addition to abuse, any past traumatic events (natural disasters, combat, car accidents, and more) can only exacerbate the potential for PTSD.
3. What Are the Long-Term Effects of Untreated PTSD
If you or someone you know sufferers from PTSD, it is treatable. PTSD is considered a progressive disorder. This means that if left untreated, symptoms can only get worse and lead to more issues:
Substance abuse: PTSD can lead to abusing alcohol and drugs due to the antidepressant properties but only proves to compound the problem.
Anger management issues: Outbursts of anger and rage can occur if PTSD is not dealt with. This could lead to abuse (child and domestic) or public outbursts.
Isolation and loneliness: Many sufferers withdraw from social events, family members, and friends. Not only due to the shame and guilt they feel, but because they are unable to participate in day-to-day activities.
Severe depression: PTSD patients are at high risk for severe depression that could lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
Many of these above examples are treatable and can be avoided. However, anyone with continually untreated symptoms, could be exposed to permanent brain damage. Living in a constant hyper-aroused state can experience long-term effects such as:
2. What Is the Correlation Between PTSD and Suicide?
There are studies that show PTSD sufferers are high risk for severe depression, linking it to suicide. This is all combined with symptoms of rage, isolation factors, changes in mood, and traumatic memories. In some cases, a person who’s left without treatment can experience a PTSD episode in which suicidal thoughts can be triggered.
The good news is, PTSD is treatable. These treatments can help a patient with coping skills, as well as managing symptoms that can reduce avoidance behaviors, mood swings, and emotional and physical reactions. There are a few ways to explore treatment:
Therapy: Therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can help you Improve PTSD symptoms, teach coping skills, and restore your overall self-esteem and quality of life.
Medication: Medications can help chemically balance the brain. Since most trauma victims have had their “fight-or-flight” response altered, proper medication can get them feeling normal again.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy: This form of therapy helps the PTSD patient face the trauma head-on. Through breathing techniques, listing avoidance behaviors, and immersing themselves in a recount of the traumatic event, they may find their symptoms alleviated.
All trauma survivors are different, and no one treatment fits all. Exploring and discussing areas of treatment with a professional is the first step to finding the best result.
1. I Think That I, or Someone I Care About, Has PTSD. Where Can I get more information?
With PTSD being treatable, it is never too late to seek proper help. Even Veterans who were unaware they had PTSD were able to improve their lives. If you’ve just started experiencing symptoms, reach out now.
If you are considering suicide, or you suspect a loved one is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 800-273-8255.
For immediate assistance regarding PTSD treatment, you can call the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
For Vets, immediate assistance can be reached at Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press "1".
Are you ready to tell your story?
Peter Bertling and Bertling Law Group’s goal is to provide a higher and higher level of uncompromising, compassionate representation to people going through the worst experiences of their life. We hope that through this work, that each case will bring the change that needs to happen to prevent these tragedies from happening in the future.
If you’re ready to make the first steps towards moving forward, please contact us. We want to hear your story. Your first consultation with us is free and our firm takes all personal injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning you owe nothing unless we collect compensation on your case. Working together, we can find answers to what went wrong, get you maximum compensation for your injuries, and prevent future harm from happening to others. Call Peter Bertling and Bertling Law Group today at 844-295-7558 or send us an email.