June is PTSD Awareness Month

Lincoln – Still reeling from the historic flooding in Nebraska this spring? You’re not alone. In fact, your risk is higher than normal for developing PTSD, or post-traumat­ic stress disorder, a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.

Any experience that involves a real or perceived threat of injury or death or causes deep trauma can cause PTSD. Natural disasters, sexual violence such as rape and child sexual abuse, intimate part­ner violence and military combat experience are the top four causes for PTSD in the U.S., according to a news release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

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. 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. 

About 24.4 million people, or 8% of Americans, have PTSD at any given time. Indications from the data collected by the Nebraska Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) suggests that the current prevalence of PTSD noted in con­sumers accessing DBH-funded services for the Fiscal Year 2018 is 10.72%, Dawson said.

“It is important that during the month of June we set aside time to remember and learn more about this illness; share information about resources; and realize that recov­ery, while challenging, is possible,” Dawson said.

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

• Frequent nightmares about the event

• Difficulty remembering the traumatic event and avoiding re­minders of the experience, such as places, people and objects.

• Hyperarousal 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 and feeling emotionally numb.

• Loss of interest in formerly en­joyable activities.

Who’s at Risk for PTSD?

There are some things that make people more likely to develop PTSD – for example, having very intense or long-lasting trauma, getting hurt, or having a strong reaction to the event (like shaking, throwing up, or feeling distant from your surround­ings). 

It’s also more common to develop PTSD after certain types of trauma, like 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 years ago.

Many people who have PTSD also have another mental health problem — like depression, anxi­ety, alcohol and drug use disorders, or thinking about harming them­selves or others.

It’s also common to have prob­lems at work, in relationships, or with physical health. Sometimes, these problems happen because of mental health symptoms. For ex­ample, feeling numb and avoiding places can make it hard to have good relationships with friends and family. 

Where is Help Available?

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 start with the Nebraska Family Helpline, 866-866-8660, the Rural Response Hotline, 800-464-0258, or reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

– Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

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