LINCOLN – Are you still reeling from the historic flooding that tore through Nebraska this spring? You’re not alone. In fact, your risk might be higher than normal for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Any experience that involves a real threat, or even a perceived threat, of injury or death can cause PTSD. PTSD can also be caused by deep personal and physical traumas. Natural disasters, sexual violence experienced as an adult or child, intimate partner violence, and military combat experience are the top four causes of PTSD in the United States. The month of June is declared as PTSD Awareness Month in Nebraska, and it’s intended to show that there is help and hope for people experiencing this very real health condition.
“It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event, such as this year’s devastating floods,” said Julie Naughton from Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services. “At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with loved ones. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.”
If it’s been longer than a few months, PTSD could be the cause.
“The National Institutes of Health and PTSD United report 70% of adults have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their life and up to 20% of those go on to develop PTSD,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “8% of Americans – that’s 24.4 million people – have PTSD at any given time.” An above average percentage – 10.72% – of people receiving state assistance show markers of having PTSD.
What Are the Signs of PTSD?
- Mental or physical discomfort when reminded of the event
- Flashbacks, in which it feels as if the event is occurring over and over, especially when those flashbacks intrude into normal thoughts or “out of nowhere.”
- Frequent nightmares about the event
- Difficulty remembering the traumatic event and avoiding reminders of the experience, such as places, people and objects.
- Hyper-vigilance symptoms, such as feeling tense, being startled easily and having trouble sleeping. While it is normal to experience some of these symptoms after a terrible event, symptoms lasting more than a few weeks may be signs of PTSD.
- Depression, worry, intense guilt or feeling emotionally numb.
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities.
There are some things that make people more likely to develop PTSD — for example, experiencing very intense or long-lasting trauma, getting physically hurt during the traumatic event, or having a strong reaction to the event (like shaking, throwing up, dissociation or feeling distant from your surroundings). It’s also more common to develop PTSD after certain types of trauma, like military combat and sexual assault. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time. Treatment can help – even if the trauma happened many years ago.
Many people who have PTSD also have other mental health problems at the same time — like depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug use disorders, thoughts of self harm, or violent thoughts about others. It’s also common for those suffering from PTSD to have problems at work, in relationships, or with physical health. Sometimes, these problems are a direct result of those mental health symptoms. For example, feeling numb and avoiding places can make it hard to have good relationships with friends and family. Getting treatment for any mental illness including PTSD can help people live healthier lives.
While everything might seem overwhelming now, your health can improve. Need to know where to go for help? You can start with your healthcare provider, or call the Nebraska Family Helpline at (866) 866-8660, the Rural Response Hotline at (800) 464-0258, or reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
“It is important that during the month of June we set aside time to remember and learn more about this illness and share information about resources,” said Dawson, “We want people to realize that recovery, while challenging, is possible.”