PTSD Awareness Day: Overcoming the stigma for more effective treatment

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Millions of Americans suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a psychological response to a traumatic or life-threatening event.

Tuesday was PTSD Awareness Day and surmounting the problem begins with education and understanding. 

PTSD affects many people after a traumatic event, but there seems to be a higher incidence among our military veterans. 

One study estimates that 1 in 5 vets of Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD. 

Frederick Gantt knows a lot about PTSD, as a Navy corpsman and then as an Army medic. Gantt said his experience during the war in Iraq left its mark on him. When he came back to San Diego, he was different. 

Like a lot of people with PTSD, Gantt said he had mood swings, he was edgy and began drinking too much. His relationships with his family were falling apart.

Gantt said finally he went for help at the San Diego Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now, the 51-year-old vet is working with the VA as a peer counselor for other veterans who are struggling with PTSD. They range in age, from service members who were in Iraq and Afghanistan to veterans of World War II.

Doctor Sonya Norman is a researcher and psychologist at the VA, who has done extensive work with the National Center for PTSD.

While talk therapy and sometimes medication are still the most effective treatments, Doctor Norman said psychologist are seeking new ways to help patients with PTSD.

For Gantt, his work as a peer counselor has helped him on his own road to recovery.

He said we can best help the survivors of trauma by framing them in another light to make it our challenge not to label them, but to try and understand.

You can learn about effective treatment options through the National Center for PTSD. Not everyone will want to choose the same type of treatment. Some people may be able to get rid of their PTSD altogether, while others may find that their symptoms become less intense. 

Information from the National Center for PTSD:

 Early Treatment Is Better.

Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop symptoms from getting worse in the future and lead to a better quality of life for you.

It’s Never Too Late to Get PTSD Treatment.

Treatment can help even if your trauma happened years ago. And treatment for PTSD has gotten much better over the years. If you tried treatment before and you’re still having symptoms, it’s a good idea to try again.

PTSD Symptoms Can Affect Those You Love.

PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your relationships.

PTSD Can Be Related to Other Health Problems.

PTSD symptoms can affect physical health problems. For example, a few studies have shown a relationship between PTSD and heart trouble. By getting help for your PTSD, you could also improve your physical health.

It May Not Be PTSD.

Having some symptoms of PTSD does not always mean you have PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are also symptoms of other mental health problems. For example, trouble concentrating or feeling less interested in things you used to enjoy can be symptoms of both depression and PTSD. And, different problems have different treatments.

When you seek help, your mental health care provider can determine whether you need treatment for PTSD, or another type of treatment.

Categories: Local San Diego News