Guest blog by Joanna, manager of the Heal my PTSD community on HealthUnlocked
Most people go through a traumatic event or loss at least once in their lifetime. Only a few of these develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), about 7-8 per cent of the population will have it at some point in their lives*. How people respond to trauma is very individual, as are the circumstances that cause it.
The most common misconception about PTSD is that it only refers to combat veterans or emergency services employees, such as the police or ambulance. The majority of people develop PTSD as a result of other types of trauma such as acts of violence, accidents and medical trauma. Prolonged exposure to traumatic circumstances or multiple traumatic events can cause Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).
Symptoms of PTSD are both mental and somatic and they can be severe enough to cause a disability. They are often quite similar to other conditions (anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and irritation) which is why people are often misdiagnosed with other mental health conditions.
Survivors of different kinds of abuse, physical or emotional, often do not realize they have PTSD, and it is frequently misdiagnosed. A recent poll on the PTSD community found that 71% of respondents were misdiagnosed, 50% with depression or anxiety.
One of the reasons that people are often misdiagnosed is that the sufferers of long term abuse are scared and ashamed to share what happened to them. Additionally, C-PTSD is not recognized as an official diagnosis in diagnostic and statistical manuals for mental health conditions, despite many trauma experts advocating that C-PTSD be included.
Treatment for C-PTSD often includes prescribed medications, especially after initial diagnosis, including anti-anxiety, anti-depressants and sleeping pills. However, we find that the most effective long term treatment is trauma based therapy.
It can be difficult to find the best therapeutic approach. Some of the most effective treatments are not yet officially recognized or reimbursed by health insurance or national health funds. It can additionally take a long time to find a therapist that specializes in trauma and there is usually a long waiting list. Finding the right therapist is important to the success of an individual’s recovery, and often therapists cannot truly relate to what their patients have experienced. This is why many people start looking for help online to better understand their situation, get information about their condition and most importantly – support.
It is common for PTSD survivors to feel alone in their journey, because they feel stigmatized and misunderstood. Connecting with others who have been through similar circumstances, feeling heard, understood, validated and supported is extremely important. It takes a lot of courage to reach out, but it can save someone’s life and give them hope that this condition is manageable or even curable with some effective treatments.
This is the goal of our international support group on HealthUnlocked.
Please note: a large amount of the content in the PTSD community is ‘hidden’ due to the sensitive nature of what is shared on the community. You can access and read the information by choosing to ‘Follow’ the community.
*Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs