The Many Faces of PTSD
Last Updated: 18 Jun 2020
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Each person is unique, which means PTSD hits everyone differently. Here are a few stories that prove it.
When most people think about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they imagine a combat Veteran waking up in a cold sweat, shaking from dreams of wartime violence.
But this is only one face of PTSD. In the US, about eight million people experience PTSD, and each one’s situation and trauma is different and unique.
This means that it’s important to understand the many ways the mental disorder can show up in you or your loved one’s lives.
What is PTSD?
All it takes for the onset of PTSD is a traumatic event— which about 50% of all people will experience in their lifetime. Traumatic events trigger severe emotional distress. And while most people recover naturally, not everyone is able to.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD include:
- At least one “re-experiencing” symptom (flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts)
- At least one avoidance symptom (avoiding thoughts, feelings, places, objects or events related to the traumatic experience)
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms (easily startled, feeling tense, difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger)
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms (difficulty remembering details of the traumatic experience, negative thoughts, distorted feelings, loss of interest)
*Please note that these symptoms may not surface until weeks or months after the trauma occurs.
An Alcoholic Parent
Kizzie had a seemingly normal childhood— she belonged to a middle-class family in a nice neighborhood. However, behind closed doors, her father struggled with alcoholism that led to constant fear and tension in the household. Though she sought help in her twenties for anxiety and depression, Kizzie still was experiencing panic attacks and emotional flashbacks. Finally, years after her childhood experiences, she was diagnosed with PTSD and received regular treatment. Now, Kizzie is hopeful about a healthy and happy future with her own family.
At our Fairweather Family Lodge program, we often work with women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse. Sometimes, these clients have undiagnosed PTSD that has left them unable to care for their children, causing them to lose their homes or custody of their children. Through the Fairweather program, we seek to provide a safe, healthy, stable, and caring environment where families can get back on their feet. You can read some of their stories here!
When Michelle survived a tragic sexual assault, her PTSD symptoms showed up almost immediately. Determined to move forward, she began receiving treatment and disclosing her diagnosis to friends and family. The process of navigating her PTSD was so difficult, but Michelle proved to herself and her loved ones that she would put in the hard work it takes to heal. She recommends that anyone diagnosed with PTSD should remember to be kind to themselves. “Having a mental illness can be difficult for anyone, but it’s important to love yourself and know you’re an AMAZING individual.”
An Eating Disorder
Jenni fought to overcome her eating disorder. But when she found victory there, she was faced with another hill to climb: PTSD and depression. Though she went to doctors and mental health professionals with her symptoms for years, no one suggested PTSD as a possible explanation. Thankfully, years later, Jenni discovered her diagnosis thanks to one fateful Google search. Now, she is on the road to recovery. To those who also grapple with the symptoms of PTSD, Jenni says: “Get help, trust yourself, and never, never, never give up.”
A Violent Accident
Samuel thought it was an ordinary day— he had volunteered to help a few neighbors move when the box he was carrying exploded. Unfortunately, this box contained a jar of sulfuric acid, and Samuel suffered terrible third-degree burns on his face and arms. His PTSD centers around this trauma. To fellow PTSD victims, he says: “I have learned that healing is a choice, thrust upon us often at inopportune moments. It is choosing to be the hero in your own story by striving each day to become the person you envision yourself to be.”
Marine Corps Veteran Javier experienced extreme stress during his deployment to Somalia. “We got ambushed probably three times,” he said. “[The enemy] used children to do their fighting,” he said. “That took a toll on me.” When he returned home to his “normal life,” it was nearly impossible to cope. He turned to alcohol, which nearly destroyed his life. Thankfully, he was able to connect with Endeavors’ Veteran Supportive Services, and through his case managers and mental health professionals, he was diagnosed with PTSD and referred to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors.
He says, “I’m over a year sober now and I’m still going strong. It’s all coming back; it’s total night and day. And now I see the sun, every day.”
Schedule a Telehealth Appointment
Did you know? We offer low to no-cost mental health appointments to Veterans and military families. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of PTSD, it may be time to schedule an appointment with one of our trained mental health providers. Our Cohen Clinics in San Antonio, El Paso, and Killeen provide Telehealth, face-to-face therapy delivered online, to reduce barriers to care. To find out how to get started with Endeavors’ PTSD treatment for veterans, click here! We’d love to connect with you.
PTSD is a serious mental health condition, and if you or someone you know is or has experienced PTSD symptoms, we recommend seeking professional medical help either through Endeavors or somewhere else. In the event of a mental health emergency, please refer to the below resources:
National Veterans Crisis Hotline: 800-273-8255, press 1
National Women Veterans Hotline: 855-829-6636
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.
About The Cohen Veterans Network
Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not for profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, via a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 16 clinics in operation serving veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.