Recently two different clients told me stories of how they were discriminated against due to having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One client was told that he could not get a promotion due to his PTSD, and the other had campus security called on him when he admitted to having a flashback. Naturally this infuriated me. I decided that I want to write a PSA for folks. I really think part of the problem is media. I feel funny saying that, but I really think that’s where the majority get their impressions of what PTSD is…but… it’s exaggerated, because IT’S TV! So let me explain something, EVERYTHING exists on a spectrum, and I guarantee more people have PTSD than anyone would ever guess. Let’s review the criteria, and you’ll see what I mean: PTSD is possible if you have ever experienced the following:
Exposure to death; this is what people think of most commonly, particularly with military, but it may also include watching a loved one die
Exposure to a threat of death; this includes being worried that someone around you might die
Exposure to actual or threatened serious injury; this includes a sports injury that ruined your potential career, a car accident, etc.
Exposure to actual or threatened sexual violence
Exposure does not mean you experienced it firsthand. People can have PTSD from hearing about these things happening.
The list above is more inclusive than you expected, huh? Experiencing these things does not mean you’ll definitely have PTSD, but clearly a lot of life circumstance can really impact us in serious ways, literally changing our brain chemistry. So now let’s review the symptoms of PTSD:
Intrusive thoughts, which means you think of it when you don’t want to or even dream of it.
Wanting to avoid thinking about the exposure. Simple.
Negative thoughts or feelings that started or got worse after the exposure.
Trauma related arousal: now this is the one where people ASSUME that you’re dangerous if you have PTSD, but the truth is it can include difficulty sleeping, startling easily, or difficulty concentrating. Do you think you have PTSD yet?
The above symptoms have to last for 1 month.
Now that you know all that, does it seem that all people with PTSD are dangerous? No! In fact, many people have experienced things that have changed them, and that’s basically what we are talking about.