One would think Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month would be one of the historically gloomy months. The time after Santa visits and before the flowers bloom. This is not the case. June is PTSD Awareness Month. It’s during the time of year when boats skim the water’s surface while they hold an entourage of people who are elated with their sun-kissed bodies and seemingly have no worries other than how much fuel is in the boat and whether they brought enough snacks and drinks to last until nightfall. But perhaps PTSD Awareness Month is in June because that’s the time of year when those struggling with this mental health condition are forced to recognize the striking difference in demeanor between themselves and others.
How is PTSD defined?
The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event- either experiencing it or witnessing it.”
It’s important to note that someone who goes through a traumatic event and temporarily experiences difficulty but then with “time and good self-care,” as the Mayo Clinic says, gets better is not said to have PTSD. It’s when traumatic events result in symptoms that worsen, last for months or even years, and interfere with everyday life that someone should consider if they have PTSD.
What can trigger PTSD?
Kelty Mental Health lists the following examples of traumatic events that can lead to PTSD:
- Domestic or family violence, dating violence
- Community violence (shooting, mugging, burglary, assault, bullying)
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Natural disaster such as hurricane, flood, fire or earthquake
- A serious car accident
- Sudden unexpected or violent death of someone close (suicide, accident)
- Serious injury (burns, dog attack) Major surgery or life-threatening illness (childhood cancer)
- War or political violence (civil war, terrorism, refugee)
The above list is a lesson in non-judgment. For example, it’s tempting for a dog-lover to push their adorable four-legged family member into the arms of someone who is not a dog-lover with good intentions, but that dog-lover needs to consider that the non-dog-lover has PTSD from an earlier traumatic experience with a dog.
When someone is not like yourself, perhaps they fear driving on the highway, the thought of flying, or even their own supermarket- thanks to the coronavirus, it’s important to remind yourself that you are not aware of every experience someone else has had and that the other person may not even realize or be ready to admit they experience PTSD.
Why is it important to recognize the symptoms of PTSD?
Why is this conversation about PTSD Awareness Month important, you ask? Why isn’t this piece about fun in the sun and all things summer, you wonder? The answer: If PTSD is untreated, it can lead to drug abuse, alcoholism, relationship problems, job loss, other psychiatric disorders, and self-destructive acts or suicide attempts.
Symptoms of PTSD, as listed by FamilyDoctor.org, include:
- Acting angry or violent
- Feeling anxious or edgy
- Having flashbacks, nightmares, bad memories, or hallucinations
- Being uninterested in daily life
- Feeling afraid or helpless
- Feeling numb or detached from others
- Trouble sleeping
- Not being able to recall parts of the traumatic event
- Avoiding people or things that remind you of the event
FamilyDoctor.org goes on to list the following symptoms for children who suffer from PTSD:
- Acting out or describing scary events, especially at playtime
- Having extreme temper tantrums or overly violent behavior
- Forgetting how to talk or not being able to talk
- Becoming dependent on adults and not wanting to be left alone
How should you approach PTSD?
If you think you may be struggling with PTSD or you are struggling to understand what to say to someone who you think may be struggling with PTSD, Brainline.org offers this advice:
- Talk to someone you trust
- Take a self-screen for PTSD (click here to go to the self-screen)
- Seek help
- Seeking professional help is key. Symptoms of PTSD can mirror symptoms of other mental health problems, such as depression, and since different mental health conditions call for different treatments and approaches, you want to ensure you are treating and responding to your symptoms correctly.
PTSD & Nutrition
In December, Psychology Today released an article entitled Can the Right Diet Help You Heal From Trauma? This article articulates the connection between healing and nutrition and points out that “our bodies have greater nutritional needs as we heal.” The article points out that those with PTSD often suffer in regards to their digestive system and can experience a lifestyle defined by non-existent eating or poor eating. To combat the tendency of traumatic events wreaking havoc on one’s mental and physical health, the article advises:
- Prioritizing healthful foods
- Think whole foods, organic foods, omega-3 fatty acids such as those in fish
- Limit inflammatory foods
- Think refined foods, processed sugar, gluten, and foods with milk protein
- Take supplementary vitamins and minerals
- EMPowerplus Advanced is the most studied micronutrient formula in the world.
- Olive Leaf Extract helps boost the immune system and bowel function by reducing yeast and other pathogens from the body.
- GreenBAC promotes healthy bowel function and is a well-researched combination of bacteria, prebiotics, botanicals, algae, and enzymes, among other ingredients, that maintain and promote healthy digestion.
- Replenish healthy gut bacteria
- Make sure probiotics, whether in supplement form or in fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, are present in your diet
- Reduce stress
- In a nutshell, when you’re stressed you also stress your gut
PTSD is serious. Never minimize your symptoms and feelings. Symptoms of PTSD are rooted in a traumatic event that you must deal with in a healthy and helpful manner, or those symptoms can consume you, both from a mental and physical standpoint. You are not alone, regardless of how intensely you may feel like you are at the moment. Reach out to those who can help and be incredibly proud that you were strong enough to do just that.
Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach