SPRINGFIELD — Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often viewed in the context of soldiers coming home from war where they experienced trauma. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. But it’s not only members of the military who suffer trauma. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt the person’s life, it may be due to PTSD.
Consider these facts, based on the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
• About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
• About 10% of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives, compared with about 4% of men. Overall, about 7% to 8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
• About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
The death of someone close, particularly a parent or a child, can result in trauma. The loss of job can be traumatic, especially when the job was central to the person’s identity. The end of a relationship with a friend or an intimate partner can be traumatic. Even a change of environment can leave someone feeling isolated, which can be traumatic. PTSD is not rare, nor is receiving therapy to help address the after-effects of trauma. In fact, lots of people get therapy.
“People talk to a therapist to process things that are having an impact on their daily lives,” said Earl Miller, coordinator of Peer Roles for the Center for Human Development (CHD). “It can be especially helpful to talk with someone who doesn’t have any weight in your life, not an intimate partner, for example, where talking through how you are feeling could be misinterpreted or otherwise affect your relationship. Most people do need some emotional support at times, but not everyone has people in their lives to provide the kind of support they need to feel well.”
Miller offered an example of someone who was going through the loss of a parent. “This person’s mother had been really important in his life. When she died, he lost his foundation. Just waking up every day and knowing he wasn’t able to reach out to his mother was overwhelming. By talking with a therapist, he realized that he isn’t broken by feeling bad, that grief is real, and that grieving is important. It was hard when he had daily reminders of parenthood in the world, like seeing strangers with their kids. The therapist was able to help him reframe those reminders, hold onto the memory of his mother, and view himself as a representative of his mother in the world. Talking with the therapist made him feel more in control, which helped return to work and move forward in his life.”
According to Miller, having someone to talk to who is a professional and can open themselves up to your circumstances and feelings can be transformative. “A good therapist, clinician, outreach worker, or peer-support specialist can mirror the qualities of a good friend, but without the baggage or burden that can come with friends and personal relationships,” he explained. “Therapy can get you out of a rut. It can help you way to reframe the way you make connections or rethink your game plan for life. It can improve your mental wellness, your relationships with others, and your ability to live life to the fullest each day.”
Miller emphasized that it’s OK to get therapy. “Wanting to feel better is absolutely a sign of strength,” he said. “If you aren’t feeling right, try therapy. See how it goes. You may be surprised when that first conversation, which lasts an hour, feels like it’s over in 10 minutes and you want it to continue.”
To find out more about therapy resources in the local community, call (844) CHD-HELP.