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PTSD Awareness Month: What to Know

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According to the National Center for PTSD, 7-8% of people will live with the disorder at some point in their life.

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For decades, post traumatic stress disorder –or PTSD– was viewed as a one-off diagnosis reserved for soldiers returning from war or survivors of car crashes. But as both time and innovations in mental health research have shown, PTSD is a more nuanced, complex and widespread mental health diagnosis than previously thought. According to the National Center for PTSD, 7-8% of people will live with the disorder at some point in their life. 

PTSD is the expression of prolonged and/or acute exposure to trauma. According to the DSM IV, a person with trauma has “ experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.” This definition is sometimes cited as too narrow, though. Trauma can also be the result of prolonged exposure to extreme stress, such as a persistently unstable environment during childhood, the sudden loss of a loved one or an abusive romantic relationship. Recent developments in the study of trauma have found that there are even more specific manifestations of trauma than PTSD, including developmental trauma, relational trauma and complex trauma. 

Because June is National PTSD Awareness Month, we think it’s important that people have a fuller understanding of what PTSD is and how to cope with its effects. Below, we’ve highlighted the ways in which PTSD can present with both physical and mental health symptoms. plus treatment options for those living with PTSD. The stigma surrounding PTSD often forces survivors of trauma into silence. Film, television and other media portrayals of people with PTSD as unstable, dysfunctional or even dangerous do little to ease the suffering that those living with PTSD endure. It’s important for anyone living with mental health struggles, including PTSD, to have a support network that includes an understanding and caring family or caregivers, plus an attentive, flexible treatment team. And while the pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health issues in a huge portion of the population, the isolation and collective uncertainty of the past has been notably harder on those with PTSD, many of whom are often triggered by such turmoil. If you or someone you love is living with PTSD and struggling, please reach out to us. In the meantime, keep reading for some of the signs of PTSD and ways to get help.   


  • Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions
  • Recurrent distressing dreams of the event
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience; illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
  • Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  • Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  • Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Restricted range of emotions (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
  • Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal lifespan)
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response

Clinical Treatment

  • Expressive Arts Therapy: painting, movement, dance, drama and music
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): helps people tune into their thoughts and beliefs about their traumatic experience while allowing them to process their triggers in a safe way
  • Exposure Therapy: clinically supervised talk therapy that allows a patient to relive difficult memories in a safe space
  • Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): a series of eye movements that stimulates the brain into “rewiring” the nervous system to react to painful memories with self-soothing responses instead of trauma responses like fight, flight or freeze
  • Mindfulness-Based Dialectical/Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): utilizes strategies such as meditation and yoga to calm the nervous system and manage extreme emotions

Day-to-Day Coping Skills

  • Deep breathing (for example, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, then exhale for 7 seconds)
  • Meditation (a five minute body scan: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste)
  • Support animals (applications vary by state)
  • Physical activity (a light walk or jog is recommended) 
  • Aromatherapy (lavender is naturally calming)
  • Peer support group (such as ours at Charlie Health!)

Recommended Reading

The Body Keeps the Score

By Bessel van der Kolk

Transformed by Trauma

By Richard G. Tedeschi, Bret A. Moore and Ken Falke

Whole Again

By Jackson MacKenzie and Shannon Thomas

Getting Past Your Past

By Francine Shapiro

Contact Us

Charlie Health’s team of licensed clinicians is here to support teens, young adults, and families struggling with mental health to process and navigate challenges together. Reaching out for help is a critical step in your journey toward healing. Professionals are available to listen to your needs, answer your questions, and match you with a treatment program that fits your needs. 

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