SHREVEPORT, La. -- Traumatic events affect people in different ways. Sometimes they simply become a memory of something that happened. But other times, a traumatic event can leave lasting scars and affect a person’s daily life.
PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that occurs when someone experiences a traumatic event.
Dr. Jayendra Patel, a psychiatrist with Christus Health System explains it this way: “And then subsequently, they have symptoms that seem to interfere with their functioning because of that event.”
A person with PTSD will be affected so acutely by a traumatic event that it interferes with their daily lives and activities. To be classified as PTSD, these symptoms last for a month or more.
“Some people have these symptoms that can last for months, years, and even decades,” said Patel.
Many veterans suffer from PTSD. But trauma that causes it is not limited to military personnel.
Physical and sexual abuse, car accidents, even storms like tornados and hurricanes can cause PTSD. And first responders are at risk from what they see every day on the job.
“Being involved in something like 9/11, if you were at the site when this event took place. So, firefighters and other people often have a lot of traumatic experiences of seeing people die or being maimed from flames and things like that,” Patel said.
PTSD symptoms include not being present in the moment due to recurrent memories of the event.
“If you’re not there, because the traumatic memories are taking you away, that’s one. Nightmares, that’s another one. If you’re noticing that you startle very easily,” he said.
Depression and anxiety are also symptoms -- often triggered by everyday occurrences. For example, someone traumatized by a hurricane might be triggered by news of upcoming storms.
“We celebrate the 4th of July with — what is the traditional thing we do at nighttime — it’s firecrackers. The firecrackers resemble the sounds of gunfire, right?” said Patel. “It often reminds veterans of being in the battle.”
Treatment for PTSD typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. But it is different for each person.
“PTSD can be in bouts, you know. It can have a bout, and then with treatment it subsides until something else triggers it again. So, you can also have intermittent therapies, depending on when the symptoms come back," Patel said.
If not treated, PTSD can result in fatal consequences, especially for veterans.
“Suicide is definitely a major risk,” Patel said. “Substance use is a major comorbidity with PTSD.”
If you think a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, encourage them to seek help. But approach the subject gently.
“Keeping it simple, because you don’t want to offend the person and make them shut down,” he said.
If you or someone you know is suffering with PTSD, help is available. For information on services in your area, call 1-800-662-HELP.