PTSD hangs over its victims as they try to reintegrate back into society
Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually linked to soldiers who have returned from war. These days, it has become known as shell shock. But nowadays, it’s become more common and isn’t just exclusive to troops.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder is now a household word,” said Patrick Bordnick, behavioral scientist and professor in the Graduate College of Social Work.
According to Bordnick, PTSD can happen to anybody who“experiences an event outside the normal human experience.” But what does “outside the normal human experience” mean?
In this case, abnormal can mean something like being present at a shooting or a bombing. The probability of these events happening to someone picked at random is low, so most people will have hardly any knowledge on how to come to terms with the event.
The basic gist of post-traumatic stress disorder is that the body’s fight-or-flight response is either changed or damaged. People living with PTSD will feel frightened even when they are no longer in danger, or in no danger at all.
As someone who is currently dealing with PTSD, I’ll tell you this much: It’s certainly not the best experience in the world.
I’ll jump at the most inane noises, and it’s just pure instinct. Any sudden noise, scary or not, will cause me to jump. For example, I’ll be outside on the porch with some friends. We’ll all be talking, and then when lightning strikes, I’ll jump without thinking because it links me back to the moment that caused my PTSD.
This is something that members of the military who suffer from PTSD also experience. Loud noises can sometimes remind them of gunfire or an explosion from a roadside bomb.
In my own experiences, my heart will begin to race and I’ll be on edge for a while, even after all the thunder is gone. It’s like I’m reliving the shooting again. I will just reminisce about that event and tune everything else out. I undergo flashbacks. Those are always unpleasant.
The worst part of the PTSD isn’t my reaction, though. It’s what I go through mentally.
And of course, PTSD can lead to feelings of depression. Sudden loud noises can trigger my fear response and cause me to undergo great distress and even after a while has gone by, I’ll still be on edge, my heart will race, and I will feel great sadness and helplessness.
It’s all crippling and, at times, embarrassing. Yes, I have undergone therapy. And yes, I have gotten better. But the PTSD never goes away. It’s always there.
According to the National Center for PTSD, “Most people who go through a trauma have some symptoms at the beginning. Only some will develop PTSD over time.”
Whether you get PTSD depends on many things, such as how intense the trauma was and how long it lasted, how strong your reaction was and how much you felt in control of the events. However, exactly how people develop PTSD is an important question that hasn’t been answered yet.
“We don’t know how some people don’t develop PTSD and others do. That’s a research question,” Bordnick said. There are too many variables to come to a sound conclusion at the present time.
People with PTSD experience many problems in their lives. The National Center for PTSD lists the common ones as follows: feelings of hopelessness, shame or despair; depression or anxiety; drinking or drug problems; physical symptoms or chronic pain; employment problems; and relationship problems, including divorce.
The greatest adversity, however, isn’t personal. It’s the way society looks at people with PTSD.
If you have the slightest inkling of PTSD, then you’re labeled as a psycho or a nutcase. As a result, “thousands of men and women refuse to seek the help they need,” said Jeremiah Workman in an article for The Huffington Post.
Hollywood certainly hasn’t helped the image and reinforces the stereotype of soldiers returning with PTSD as “crazies.” According to Workman, a staff sergeant of the United States Marine Corps, troops with PTSD featured in movies such as “Rambo” and “Lethal Weapon” “have been portrayed as loose cannons, violent and sociopathic.”
Fighting the stereotype is in itself a great challenge for PTSD sufferers to overcome. “Pop culture has stigmatized PTSD to the degree that many men and women who have it are not willing to come forward and seek the treatment they need to get better,” Workman said.
Changing the view on PTSD won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight, either, as much as people like Workman and me would love to see it change. However, the more people learn about it, the more they’ll be able to accept people who have it. Hopefully, that means that more people can get the help they need, and once they’ve been helped, they won’t be made to feel different from society.
Opinion columnist Callie Parrish is a math and arts senior and may be reached at [email protected]