Originally chronicled as a condition affecting Vietnam veterans, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a relative newcomer to the field of mental health. Nowadays, PTSD is commonly used to describe a set of symptoms for survivors of terrorist attacks, plane, rail, or car crashes, as well as victims of rape, sexual assault or other forms of trauma. It has also been applied to emergency service workers as well as present-day returning veterans of Middle East combat.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have witnessed a traumatic event where there was actual or threatened death and must persistently re-experience the event by distressing dreams, feelings or illusions as well as persistently avoid any stimuli associated with the original trauma.
Since PTSD can include symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, or dissociation (acting or thinking as if you are living the trauma all over again), you might be worried that you are going crazy. For this reason, it is so important to become educated about all of the feelings that are common to PTSD. The problem is not that you are crazy. Rather, the problem is that you have anxiety because of a traumatic event you have experienced.
Within the family unit, PTSD is rarely discussed. The sufferer may be described by the family as being moody, depressed, or may be an abuser of drugs or alcohol. The family usually focuses PTSD sufferer’s behavior rather than seeing the behavior in light of “the big picture.” Without treatment, PTSD sufferer’s moodiness can become into chronic mood instability, mood swings, verbal or physical abuse, along with exacerbation of any present addictions.
When partners of PTSD sufferers are asked what they felt about their partner’s problems, this is what they have said:
• Overwhelmed by pressures of having assumed total responsibility in the home situation
• Afraid to say anything, fearful of yet another emotional blow-up
• Lose sight of their own needs, deferring to the emotional neediness of the partner
• Self-esteem becomes worn-down as a result of being de-valued by the partner
• They feel responsible for making everything better
• Depressed and caught in the middle between their partner and the children
PTSD is considered an invisible disability because sufferers of PTSD most often adopt a code of silence about their trauma, fearful of being judged or fearful of re-experiencing the traumatic event. This refusal to discuss what they are feeling extends unfortunately to concerned family members who would be in an excellent position to advocate for their loved one to get help.
Combat veterans who have PTSD are considered to be disabled, and PTSD is currently the number one mental health problem among veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some PTSD does resolve on its own, while other cases need therapeutic intervention with skilled mental health practitioners. Left untreated, PTSD can last a lifetime, and can contribute to alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, and domestic violence.