Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects a large percentage of the population. While most people associate PTSD with war veterans and it is a fact that many vets suffer from PTSD, the reality is that there are different forms of and reasons for PTSD, and it can affect almost anyone. Children can be affected, as well as someone who has either been through or witnessed a traumatic, dangerous, or unexpected event. However, not every person who experiences trauma develops PTSD; each person responds differently. There is no singular determining factor as to who will or won’t develop PTSD, but there are certain categories and types that most sufferers fall into.
Singular Traumatic Event
A large percentage of the population has experienced a singular traumatic event in their lifetime—over half. Someone who experiences only one event has a lesser chance of developing PTSD; however, it can still present itself over time. Certain people with a tendency for stress, anxiety, or worry are more susceptible to PTSD, but ultimately doctors can’t determine in advance whether someone will develop it or not. Sometimes PTSD symptoms may not surface until many months or even years later, since each person’s brain works differently and can be affected by certain triggers. Often, a person can experience a trauma and never develop PTSD, but it is entirely normal for someone to react to going through or witnessing a trauma and one must not feel weak or overly sensitive for developing PTSD. Examples of singular events that often cause PTSD are car accidents, deaths, rape or sexual assault, physical attacks or bodily harm, and situations where a person’s life may be in danger.
A person who experiences ongoing or multiple traumas is more susceptible to developing PTSD overall, which makes sense due to repeated or extended intense experiences. When a person is consistently exposed to stress and trauma, such as prolonged war, forms of abuse, or dangerous situations, the resulting PTSD can even turn into Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD). CTSD can present all the same signs and symptoms of PTSD, but the difference is that CTSD sufferers are more likely to have additional health problems and must focus more on coping mechanisms than alleviating symptoms. Of course, soldiers in combat will often experience ongoing situations of endangerment, violence, and death, which is why it is common for them to develop both PTSD and CTSD after returning from war.
PTSD symptoms can manifest themselves in unexpected situations in relation to ongoing trauma in the sense that a person may not realize he or she is developing PTSD because it cannot necessarily be traced back to a singular event. However, domestic physical or emotional abuse can trigger a form of PTSD in addition to anxiety or depression, so one must look at symptoms from all points of view in order to receive proper treatment.
When discussing PTSD, one may tend to forget about the fact that children can develop it just as often as adults. While symptoms of PTSD may manifest themselves a bit differently in children than adults and depending on the child’s age, the diagnosis and treatment are generally the same. When looking out for symptoms in a child, one must remember that smaller children may not even know or process what they have witnessed or been a part of, but signs will come out in various ways, such as nightmares, trouble sleeping, or acting out the trauma during playtime. Children may also respond differently based on the trauma experienced, so one must pay special attention and even write down symptoms and occurrences, if possible. Older children, such as adolescents and teenagers, will respond more like adults, sometimes developing anxiety, depression, or flashbacks. Regardless, children will likely be on edge or irritable and feel sad, perhaps even forgetting or attempting to forget the traumatic event in order to avoid the related fear and stress.
Millions of people across the country and around the globe suffer from PTSD, and it can affect anyone who has experienced traumatic events or situation. Unfortunately, our world is plagued with violence and problems, so it isn’t likely that PTSD will disappear from our lives anytime soon. We must find ways to cope and do anything we can to help; those who have experienced it can provide support for others, whether it be recommending a therapist, recognizing signs in a friend or family member, or simply being there for someone to talk to and help them deal with and process things. One never knows when providing a listening ear may help someone and give them the confidence they need to seek treatment and begin the road to recovery.