In the aftermath of the recent natural disasters in the south, we are going to do a series of posts on dealing with crisis and trauma.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is similar to a stress reaction and, in fact, many people who have experienced a traumatic event do develop PTSD. Those with PTSD may experience many of the same emotional and physical symptoms as those with a traumatic stress reaction. Those with PTSD, however, experience trauma along with intense fear, helplessness or horror and then develop intrusive symptoms (such as flashbacks or nightmares). Their symptoms will last more than a month and get in the way of normal life.
Traumatic stress is not uncommon. In fact:
· About 70 % of U.S. adults have experienced a severe traumatic event at least once in their life and one out of five go on to develop symptoms of PTSD
· Approximately 8% of all adults have suffered from PTSD at any one time
· If you include children and teens, an estimated 5% of all Americans will develop PTSD during their lifetime or more than 13 million people
· About one in 10 women will develop PTSD symptoms during their lifetime or double the rate for men because they are much more likely to be victims of domestic violence, rape or abuse.
· Almost 17% of men and 13% of women have experienced more than three traumatic events during their life.
The Mind/Body Connection
Suffering traumatic stress can affect your emotions as well as your body and the two are so connected that it can be hard to tell the difference. For instance, traumatic stress can cause you to lose concentration, forget things, or have trouble sleeping. It may be difficult to determine on your own whether these symptoms are because you do not feel well physically or because you are still upset. Traumatic stress also can lead you to eat in unhealthy ways or to eat foods that are not healthy, and those eating patterns can affect how you sleep or how your stomach feels. Stress can cause headaches, but the pain from the headaches can also make your stress worsen.
Because the body and the mind work in concert, traumatic stress can cause a cycle that makes it seem like the body and mind are working against one another, worsening symptoms like pain and fatigue.
Reprinted from American Psychological Association. APA is grateful to Paul J. Rosch, M.D.. President, The American Institute of Stress, for his help in developing this fact sheet.