June is PTSD Awareness Month. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder, which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. It is normal to feel differently than usual after a traumatic event, but most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
Dr. David Allen, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant said he suffered multiple PTSD events during his 22 years of service in the military.
“I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and saw many things that affected me,” said Dave Allen. “I also had a traumatic experience working in the U.S. Army’s Burn Center with a patient whose life we were trying to save after he was severely injured by an IED.”
Dave said he would compartmentalize these events and put them away. It wasn’t until his staff at a previous facility told him he was acting different, that he decided to get help.
“I wasn’t sleeping. My staff told me I was looking bad and that I wasn’t holding it together like I used to,” said Dave. “Through counseling, I learned my triggers and how to cope in a healthy way.”
Dave says he now makes sure to eat right, get enough sleep, and take care of himself. He also avoids triggers that exacerbate his condition.
“I tell people ‘Don’t be afraid. Reach out for help,’” said Dave. “And it only works if you are willing to listen and make changes in your life.”
Of people who have had trauma, about 1 in 10 men and 2 in 10 women will develop PTSD, but no one has to live with their PTSD symptoms forever.
PTSD can occur after a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, military combat, abuse, accident, or assault. It often co-exists with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse (https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder). The flagship symptoms of PTSD include avoidance of people or places that remind one of the traumatic event, re-experiencing the event through flashbacks, nightmares, or persistent thoughts, and intense behavior such as anger outbursts or hypervigilance.
There are a variety of treatment options available to those struggling with PTSD, each with their own individualized benefits. Psychotherapy involves processing intrusive thoughts and learning positive coping behaviors in an individual or group setting. Medication Management can work to lower the stress inducing hormones in the body. Self-management strategies, such as mindfulness and meditation, can help reroute the connections in the brain to find peace in stressful situations. Lastly, those struggling with PSTD have the ability to work with a service dog, soothing their symptoms, reminding them to engage in helpful coping behaviors, and help them to navigate stressful situations (https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder).
- The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers several virtual support groups for those struggling with mental health issues, as well as their families.
- The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Dr. Edmund J. Bourne
Dr. Frank Drummond, the National Medical Director for Behavioral Health Services with HCA Healthcare, recommends this book for anyone looking to educate themselves on anxiety disorders, learn techniques for overcoming certain fears, or access helpful examples of exercise and nutrition plans.Learn more about our services at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant
This PTSD Awareness Month, help us spread the word that effective treatment options are available. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, talk to a doctor or mental health care provider.