Focusing on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Friday, June 19, 2015 | 01:11pm

Awareness may lead more people to pursue treatment

NASHVILLE – June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services recognizes the ongoing need for information and treatment resources.

“Many Tennesseans have had their safe, routine lives changed by traumatic events such as ice storms, floods, tornadoes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other events,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  “These types of events can cause tremendous stress.  Individuals plagued by traumatic events need to know they are not alone and that there is help.”

PTSD may be the result of a single traumatic event or a series of events.  The events tend to be marked by a sense of helplessness, horror, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death.

“The way that individuals respond to a traumatic event can vary,” said Dr. Howard L. Burley, Jr., Chief Medical Officer for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “There may be feelings of depression, fear, and grief.  Many times individuals exhibit behavioral and physical responses including dizziness, nausea, flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep pattern and/or appetite, as well as withdrawal from daily activities.  It can take weeks, even months for individuals to begin to feel and behave normal again.”

Not all individuals who experience traumatic events need to seek treatment.  In some cases, individuals have reported feeling better within three months of the event.  However, if reactions to the traumatic event linger too long (i.e., hang around for more than a month) or get worse, it is likely that the individual has developed PTSD and should therefore seek treatment.  These individuals will typically mentally and emotionally relive the event, make constant efforts to avoid reminders of the event, and develop signs of overwhelming sensitivity to changes in the local environment. 

In the U.S., it is estimated that 5.2 million adults (3.6%) will experience PTSD during a given year.  Estimates for military personnel tend to be much higher. 

Studies have shown that between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom experience PTSD in a given year.

“Communities adjacent to military bases like Clarksville, Tennessee, have the highest number of veterans with PTSD,” said Commissioner Varney. “There is a tendency for former soldiers to settle near bases once they leave the service. This means we need to ensure there is a network of support in and near those communities for our veterans and their families.”

There are many treatment options for PTSD.  Your physician may prescribe one or more of the following: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral (“talk”) Therapy
  • Support Group, and/or Medication

Without treatment, PTSD can lead to substance abuse, reliving the terror, heart attacks, depression, dementia, suicide, and/or stroke.  Recovery is a gradual, ongoing process and taking that first step toward treatment can be the start of a more manageable happy life.