Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: How Common is it?

Research shows that 7% of American adults suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. That’s a respectable number. Compare it to other medical/mental health issues:

1% have Celiac disease

3% have Hepatitis C

2.6% have Bipolar Disorder

30% have High Blood Pressure

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as:

A pathological anxiety that usually occurs after an individual experiences or witnesses severe trauma that constitutes a threat to the physical integrity or life of the individual or of another person.

PTSD is diagnosed if a person exhibits specific behaviors, such as flash-backs of the terrifying event, nightmares, intrusive or disturbing thoughts, avoiding places that bring back bad memories, numb feelings, edginess, restlessness.  It’s normal to experience these after any life-threatening or traumatic event, but with PTSD the feelings and behaviors persist after a reasonable time.

PTSD is mostly seen in war veterans, child abuse victims, and those who have survived trauma such as rape, torture, kidnapping, car accidents, plane crashes, bombings, and natural disasters.

Within roughly 4 years, 44% of people will recover from their trauma without specific treatment.

This natural recovery is likely seen in those who have a healthy self-esteem and a resilient nature; meaning an ability to adapt to adverse events and bounce back from stress. Resilient people are able to cope with what happened to them and find purpose in life.

In my medical practice setting (psychiatry), I see patients with PTSD regularly, some are doing well on medications and therapy, others not so well, with some turning to illicit drugs, while others plunge deep into depression. Sadly, there are some who can’t escape the torture of flashbacks and incessant anxiety and die by suicide.

Here’s something to think about – because we don’t know who has PTSD or who may be thinking about suicide, let’s be generous with our considerations and treat everyone with kindness. Recently I read about a suicidal man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge to his death. He left behind a note,

Would a small smile from a stranger really have made a difference for this man? I’d like to think yes.

Since we don’t know what people are going through and chances are you will brush shoulders with someone suffering deeply with PTSD, be a part of the solution and not the problem. Check in on your emotional barometer. If you feel testy, or fiery, press the pause button. Take a moment to chill and breath. Whatever is causing your turbulent mood will pass soon enough. Give yourself a time out before you go and give grief to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Also, don’t argue unnecessarily. Be a peaceful driver. Hold a door. Never post derogatory comments on someone’s social media page. Don’t seek revenge. Say hi. Be patient. Pray for your enemies, and forgive those who trespass against you. Give the benefit of the doubt. Get to know people.

Life is difficult enough, but imagine trying to get through day after day with PTSD. If you or a loved one is living with it, I hope you have found help. If you need help see your health care provider or check out PTSD Alliance Also, In the U.S.: Call the NAMI helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI to find support.

Do you have PTSD? You are not alone! There is definitely hope for you and healing to be found. For all of us: let’s be kind always, and smile at strangers. You may be that one shining light to someone in desperate need. Look around you and remember, 7%.