Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common yet often misunderstood mental health issue. Many people mistakenly believe that only people who have served in the military can develop PTSD. While it is true that an estimated one out of every four or five men and women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan will develop PTSD, it can affect anyone of any age: men, women, children, adults.
A few facts about PTSD
- You cannot tell by looking at a person if he or she has PTSD. It is an invisible disorder.
- PTSD is not a sign of weakness. It is only a sign that the person has experienced trauma.
- A diagnosis of PTSD does not mean you are crazy or insane. It merely recognizes that you have experienced trauma that your mind is unable to move past.
- There is no cure for PTSD. There are many treatments available and you can show vast improvement with the right treatment for you, but the disorder will always be there.
- PTSD symptoms can be triggered by anything: sound, smell, sight, touch, taste. Even everyday stress can trigger or make symptoms worse.
So, what are PTSD symptoms?
According to the National Center for PTSD, there are four types of symptoms.
1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
“Symptoms of PTSD” – the National Center for PTSD
Some of the most well-known and common symptoms are:
- avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- difficulty maintaining relationships
- difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- getting startled easily
- suddenly becoming angry or irritable over minor incidents or seemingly nothing
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a person with PTSD may be completely disabled and unable to work. Others with the disorder are able to maintain full-time employment, although it may be much more difficult for them than for people without PTSD.
One accommodation that many with PTSD have found beneficial in living as normal a life as possible is a service dog. While service dogs for PTSD and other psychiatric disorders are still relatively new, they can help a person struggling with daily life get their lives back, so to speak. PSTD dogs do a variety of tasks, and each dog is trained to meet the specific needs of their human partner.
Some of those tasks may include:
- distracting the handler from upsetting or disturbing thoughts
- turning on lights
- checking a room for intruders
- providing a buffer in crowds
- waking the handler from nightmares
- getting the handler to play in order to disrupt depression
Something these special service dogs do that isn’t considered a task is offer unconditional love. While that may not seem like much, to a person who is suffering it can mean everything. It could even be the difference between life and death, since a people with PTSD are prone to depression and may need to be reminded they have a reason to live and fight through their symptoms. The unconditional love of a canine companion and knowing that dog is counting on them for food, shelter, and care can offer that reason to live.
For more information on PTSD, I recommend visiting the National Center for PTSD website. They offer loads of information geared toward the public as well as professionals. If you or someone you know is experiencing PTSD symptoms, I encourage you to seek help. Although it may not feel like it, there is hope and you can get better with treatment.
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