May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’re turning our attention to one of the most common mental health issues affecting survivors of domestic abuse: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have experienced (either directly or indirectly) a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. We often think about PTSD in relation to combat veterans, but it’s also common among survivors of domestic violence and other types of abuse.
Everyone experiences trauma in their own way. If two people experience the same traumatic event, it’s possible for one of them to develop PTSD and not the other. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD, whether it was an isolated incident like a sexual assault, or long-term trauma like an abusive relationship. If you’re concerned you or someone you know may have developed PTSD, read on to learn more.
Signs of PTSD
PTSD can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, but you can see the full list of diagnostic criteria here. There are many possible symptoms, and they can vary widely from person to person.
Some of the most common signs of PTSD are nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, and a heightened emotional response to things that remind you of your trauma. Many people who have PTSD report that when something reminds them of their trauma, they experience symptoms like dissociation or “zoning out,” angry outbursts, panic attacks, or intense fear.
Even if you think that your trauma “isn’t as bad” as someone else’s, your experience is valid and deserves to be treated as such.
What you can do
Though PTSD can feel overwhelming at times, you’re not alone. There are many resources available to you on your healing journey.
Find a mental health professional you trust.
Whether it’s a therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, the value of mental health care cannot be overstated. The person you choose will be your trusted ally, and help guide you through your journey. Everything you say to them will be confidential. Many therapists also offer a sliding scale for patients with no insurance.
Talk to an advocate.
While therapy will help you process and work through your trauma, an advocate like the ones at LifeWire can help you realize you aren’t alone. They can also connect you with helpful resources like support groups, legal help, housing, etc. You can reach LifeWire 24/7 at 425-746-1940 or 800-827-8840.
Find a supportive friend.
Having a friend or family member that you trust on-call can be a big help when things get tough.
Prioritize self care.
Set aside time as often as you can to do things that make you feel calm and safe.
Give yourself time.
Patience is key with PTSD, so don’t worry about how long it will take you to feel “normal” again. Everyone heals differently, and that’s okay.