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The Impact of Trauma for Americans

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An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives. A traumatic event is one in which an individual experiences a threat (actual or perceived) of death or serious injury to himself or others.

It’s natural to be afraid when you’re in danger, in fact, your body (your autonomic nervous system to be exact) is trained to respond quickly in these situations starting with changes like increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and sweating. Feeling upset when something bad happens to you or someone you know is pretty normal, but feeling this way weeks or even months after the occurrence may be a sign of a trauma or stressor-related disorder.

One out of five individuals who experience a traumatic event will go on to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual identifies the trigger to PTSD as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. The exposure results from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:

  • directly experiences the traumatic event;
  • witnesses the traumatic event in person;
  • learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental); or
  • experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related).

To learn more about PTSD symptoms, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD website.

While it’s common to think about individuals serving in the United States Military when we think about PTSD, there are a number of other professions whose workers are also exposed to trauma on a daily basis. Last month the Huffington Post wrote an eye-opening five-part series on mental health in the newsroom discussing the need for trauma training and care for journalists who often witness and write about traumatic events countless times throughout the year. First responders (Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs, & Paramedics) play a crucial role in our society and are also exposed to highly stressful events in the course of their routine duties.

June is PTSD Awareness Month and this Saturday, June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day. It’s an important time to learn more about the signs and symptoms of PTSD so you can look out for yourself and your loved ones. Being able to identify symptoms as early as possible and seeking help is vital. Free, anonymous PTSD screenings are available at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.

 

Resources
Fear and the Brain: A Full Body Experience. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.fearexhibit.org/brain/full_body_experience 
First Responders and Traumatic Events: Normal Distress and Stress Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.traumacenter.org/resources/pdf_files/First_Responders.pdf 
Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. (2013). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes from dsm-iv-tr to dsm-5.pdf 
PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2014, January 3). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp 
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml 
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/PTSD Fact Sheet.pdf 
What is (PTSD) Post-traumatic stress disorder? (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from http://www.ptsdalliance.org/about_what.html  

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