National PTSD Awareness Day: Understanding PTSD Causes, Symptoms, and Coping Strategies

As we move through life, we get to encounter both happy and sad moments. In spite of our imperfections, these experiences teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, and we get the chance to impart them to those closest to us.

But sometimes we learn more about ourselves and how to live in the present by enduring frightening and challenging experiences. Thus, these cause a change in a person's actions, beliefs, and overall demeanor.

People who have been through or seen things that they think will hurt their bodily or mental health are more likely to acquire post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the American Psychological Association.

In honor of National PTSD Awareness Day, let us strive to increase our understanding of the disorder so that we can better assist individuals who are coping with it.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): What is it and what causes it?

According to the American Psychological Association, PTSD is "a disorder that may result when an individual lives through or witnesses an event in which they believe there is a threat to life or physical integrity and safety and experiences fear, terror, or helplessness." The DSM-V calls it Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorder.

How common is PTSD?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that 3.9% of people around the world have experienced PTSD. What people have gone through and experienced also affect PTSD risks.

People who have served in the military, medical personnel (including those who work in emergency rooms and trauma centers), firemen, police officers, and victims of abuse are more prone to develop PTSD. They often deal with challenging circumstances that have an impact on their overall health.

PTSD in the Philippines:

Looking locally, some may think Filipinos don't experience the above, while others may think it's foreign to our culture.

Consider the pandemic, which affected nearly everyone we know. According to the Department of Health, an estimated 3.6 million Filipinos have experienced mental health issues, including PTSD, since COVID-19 began. Not only that, but we Filipinos frequently experience natural disasters, such as the eruption of Kanlaon volcano and super-typhoons, which can leave us fatigued and constantly preparing for the next incident. Natural disasters such as floods, volcanic eruptions, and typhoons also contribute to a rise in PTSD cases across the country.

No matter how often people regard Filipinos as resilient in spite of the challenges we have faced, we cannot deny that these circumstances can be difficult to overcome.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of this disorder may include nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of distressing thoughts and conversations about the event, irritability and hostility, difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, memory issues, and detachment from others. These symptoms don't have anything to do with drugs or medicine; they usually start three months after a stressful event, last more than a month, and get in the way of daily life. Some people may experience additional issues at the same time, such as despair or concern, and the disorder can continue for at least six months. 

One could think that PTSD just affects our behavior and mental health; however, it may additionally cause physical problems. People with PTSD may also experience symptoms such as high blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, and other medical issues and pain

How kids and teens react to scary or life-changing events may be different from how adults respond. They may struggle with thinking and communicating with others, act in harmful or annoying ways, appear needy or distant, bring up scary event(s) during playtime or conversations, and show disrespect towards others.

We must remember that people react differently to stressful situations, and not everyone will suffer mental health problems like PTSD. 

Coping and Showing Support

One way to provide support for loved ones suffering from PTSD and/or other mental health issues is to realize that our coping mechanisms may differ from those of others. This helps us be careful about giving advice and suggestions.

Here are some ways we can try to cope with PTSD:

  • Be mindful of your alcohol consumption. 

We drink to have a wonderful time with our loved ones, but we also drink to distract ourselves. Consuming alcohol when dealing with stress and traumatic experiences may make it harder to cope and worsen symptoms. This is a gentle reminder to be responsible with your alcohol usage.

  • Connect with your trusted group of friends and family.

According to research, receiving support from trusted family and friends helps us heal. When we have someone we can trust and confide in, dealing with painful life circumstances becomes easier.

  • Maintain a schedule to help you get through the day.

This can help us focus our attention on the chores that we need to complete during the day. Creating smart goals that you can achieve within a day might also be beneficial.

  • Engage in healthy and relaxing activities.

There are numerous activities that we may find calming. However, we must be intentional about what activities will help us be healthy and cope better. It's a great idea to switch from doom-scrolling to honing your hobbies, watching Netflix, and taking a walk outside.

More importantly, it is essential to be intentional about one's sleep patterns. Maintaining and developing good sleeping habits is an effective strategy to stay rested throughout the day.

  • Set realistic goals that will help you focus.

As previously said, smart goals can help you get through the day. We could also be more proactive about it, setting realistic goals that can help redirect our attention and focus. 

You have the option to set goals daily, weekly, or monthly. Whatever way you like it.

And it's okay if you fall short of your goals on occasion. It is okay. Breathe, and let's try again tomorrow.

  • Talk with your mental healthcare provider.

If you notice changes in how you respond and feel that something is different about how you react and behave, don't self-diagnose; instead, contact a mental healthcare practitioner.

When experiencing PTSD symptoms, it is critical to get an appropriate diagnosis and therapy. 

If these do not work, consult with your mental health provider, such as Empath, to help you process and determine the next actions to take as you move forward.

Reminder: The above symptoms should not be used to diagnose. Only mental health professionals can diagnose PTSD.

References:

  • 50 PTSD Statistics & Facts: How Common Is It? (2023, August 2). Retrieved from Golden Steps ABA: https://www.goldenstepsaba.com/resources/ptsd-statistics#:~:text=While%20estimates%20vary%2C%20it%27s%20believed,are%20affected%20by%20this%20condition.
  • Coping with Traumatic Events. (2024, May). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/coping-with-traumatic-events
  • Expert Q&A: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (2024, June 13). Retrieved from American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/expert-q-and-a#:~:text=People%20with%20PTSD%20may%20also,pain%20and%20a%20traumatic%20event.
  • posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (2023, November 15). Retrieved from American Psychological Association: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2024, May). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. (2024, May 27). Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#:~:text=An%20estimated%203.9%25%20of%20the%20world%20population%20has%20experienced%20PTSD,conflict%20or%20war%20(3).
  • Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder: Signs and Symptoms. (2024, June 13). Retrieved from UNILAB: https://www.unilab.com.ph/articles/ptsd-signs-and-symptoms
  • PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2024, June 9). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/dsm5_ptsd.asp
  • Villar, M. A. (2022, November 21). POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AWARENESS AND EDUCATION ACT. Retrieved from Senate of the Philippines 19th Congress: https://legacy.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=19&q=SBN-1524

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