By Beth Ranagan
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is most often associated with the combat stress following the active duty of soldiers. Actually, people other than soldiers can experience and be professionally diagnosed with PTSD if they have experienced actual or threatened serious injury, have been threatened with death, or have experienced actual sexual violence or have been threatened with sexual violence. If someone witnesses death or violence, including the domestic violence that children may witness, they can be at risk for later trauma symptoms associated with PTSD. First responders and medical personnel dealing with repeated exposure to death as well as professionals dealing with the details of child abuse are at risk.
The DSM-5, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5, indicates the kinds and number of symptoms required for a professional diagnosis of PTSD. Symptoms may be delayed in expression or may occur immediately following the event. Some of the symptoms experienced and witnessed by others are horrific nightmares, flashbacks, involuntary recurrent memories of the event, trauma-related emotions of fear, anger, guilt or shame, irritable or aggressive behavior, physical symptoms such as stomach aches, exaggerated startle response, and many others. These symptoms may cause functional impairment at the social or occupational levels and lead to anxiety and depression. Those with PTSD may turn eventually to drugs and/or alcohol to ease the mental pain and quell unwanted memories or behaviors. Soldiers, in particular, may consider suicide. A full diagnosis of PTSD is not made until 6 months following symptom onset.
During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation, those with PTSD may be suffering more. The psychotherapy that is a social lifeline for some may have been suspended or may be infrequent when delivered via telehealth. Support groups can no longer meet except digitally. Suicide rates are expected to go up as social supports from family and friends dwindle and jobs are lost. The psychopharmaceutical piece may not be enough without the psychotherapy element. To build resilience, people with PTSD need social supports to heal and maintain equanimity.
Every person with PTSD has their own story. On Wednesday, June 17 at 1 p.m., NAMI Piscataquis County will host Nicole Foster, JD, who will relate her experience as a PTSD survivor. Nicole is employed by NAMI Maine as the Director of Peer Services and will offer her story as a message of hope to those with PTSD and their families and friends. This program will be held via zoom. For information and an invitation to attend, email email@example.com indicating your name, phone number, and email address or call 924-7903. A further profile of Ms. Foster and her upcoming presentation will appear next week in the press
NAMI Piscataquis County also supports and sponsors PTSD Conversations: Our Communities’ Response, a series program presented by The Commons at Central Hall. The first presentation via zoom in this series on Wednesday, June 24 at 1 p.m. will feature the VA-approved equine therapy program offered by Judy Cross and Kim Slininger at Spirit Warrior in Dover-Foxcroft. Watch the media and Facebook for more information regarding registration for the program or go to http://www.centralhallcommons.org to register.