Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can greatly impact any person who has experienced trauma in their life. Often associated with the aftermath and symptoms many veterans experience, PTSD is still considered “new” in the world of mental health. First recognized in the early 1980s, PTSD symptoms were referred and described as “shell shock” and “war neurosis.” Since the 1980s more research, education, and advocacy around PTSD has had a strong focus on military personnel and veterans. More recently, the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder has trickled into everyday lives of those not in the military as we now understand trauma can be experienced in many forms and places by anyone. 

Who Develops PTSD?

Anyone can develop PTSD. It is estimated that over 70% of adults will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime and more than 20% will develop PTSD. PTSD is believed to affect more than 5 million U.S. adults in a given year and while it does not discriminate against any gender, age, or race, it does affect women at a slightly higher percentage compared to men and middle-aged individuals compared to youth and those over the age of 60.  

Those who have experienced trauma can have a varying degree of thresholds when it comes to triggers. For some, triggers might be a day with excessively strong winds in Cedar Rapids; getting back into a car after an accident; fireworks on the 4th of July; a song on the radio or a recognizable smell can all take those who experienced trauma back to a place that can be so debilitating that everyday functions seem impossible.  Symptoms of a traumatic episode usually begin within three months of experiencing an event, but we also know some symptoms can first emerge years later. Clinically speaking, diagnosis of PTSD must include any symptoms lasting more than one month.  Those symptoms can include recurring, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories; avoiding certain places or objects that trigger unwanted feelings of the event; cognitive and mood symptoms such as feeling numb, worried, or depressed; or the feeling of being hypervigilant—startled by any noise or stimuli that resembles the event, trouble sleeping, or emotional outbursts.

PTSD Treatments

Although PTSD seems to be more and more common, so are the treatments and services available to those struggling. The best clinical treatment for this condition is still cognitive therapies using exposure therapy allows individuals to learn new coping mechanisms when triggers appear. Specifically, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapies have great research around them currently and are gaining more popularity in helping those with PTSD. 

Awareness and Screening

June 27 marks National PTSD Awareness and Screening Day. An easy online tool can be found on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website, but it can assist anyone who has experienced trauma. As much as we support our local veterans and their mental health needs, one does not need to leave a combat zone to feel worthy of receiving help for traumatic events.   

The Linn County Mental Health Access Center stresses the importance of not ever defining one’s crisis and this extends to anyone who has experienced trauma. If you or a loved one are struggling with the aftermath of any traumatic event, consider using an online screener tool. Knowing is the first step and help is available.  

PTSD Screening Tool

Mental Health Resources