Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is becoming a household name. Although this condition is most associated with those who have served in the military, anyone can have PTSD. This condition affects 7% of the U.S. population (roughly 300 million people). PTSD develops after experiencing a traumatic event, such as a hurricane, car accident, physical or sexual abuse, serious injury, threatened death or a near-death experience.
“PTSD manifests in many different ways. It can be persistent or a one-time event. It leaves a marked effect on the person’s emotional sense of wellbeing that remains persistent in their overall state and sense of security and safety,” he said.
Even though you are physically safe, you may feel that you aren’t or may experience flashbacks during a situation that reminds you of a traumatic event, Dr. Marrero said. For example, hurricane survivors may have a PTSD experience during strong winds or rain even though it is not hurricane season.
Symptoms of PTSD are different for everyone who experiences it. This includes heightened anxiety, feeling vulnerable, disassociating from your surroundings and from social life, being hypervigilant or aware of your surroundings, exaggerated startle response and substance/alcohol abuse.
“We understand PTSD a lot more now than we have in the past,” Dr. Marrero said. “We know PTSD is related to the limbic system in your brain which is responsible for producing a sensation of fear, anxiety, and distress when needed for our fight or flight response.”
When adrenaline is released during our fight or flight response, our heart rate increases, our breath shortens and we have a heightened sense of fear. Without proper treatment, these symptoms can begin to affect other areas of your health as well. PTSD can affect your cardiac health and lead to insomnia, a weakened immune system, lack of concentration, lack of memory, irritability and in some cases may affect the digestive tract. Before symptoms progress to that level, it’s important to provide support for those in need, Dr. Marrero said.
“You can be emotionally supportive just by listening. You shouldn’t feel the need to rescue them, but this person should feel they can share their feelings, fears, and concerns. This can help them to not feel so alone and threatened by their thoughts,” Dr. Marrero said.
“It’s important to gain that person’s trust and help them understand that they should receive the help they need to improve their quality of life,” he said.
So when is the right time to receive that help? Right after a traumatic event, Dr. Marrero said.
If someone with PTSD does not receive the help they need it can not only lead to worsening physical symptoms but patterns of self-medicating, turning against one’s support system and general fears that expand beyond a traumatic event.
“At SIMEDHealth, we have therapists who are aware of the needs of our community. We’re able to properly diagnose PTSD, its side effects and find the right clinical treatment plan,“ Dr. Marrero said.
Once within the SIMEDHealth network of integrated services, no matter how your PTSD manifests, you’ll get the support you need, he said.