Many of us have experienced a traumatic event that left us with a deep emotional wound. These frightening experiences may have led to nightmares following the harrowing experience. It may not have happened to you directly, but it can be enough to shake you up. For most of us, that feeling will lift over time, and it will soon become a distant memory. For others, however, it could have resonated deep within your core.
Trauma is not a rare experience. Six out of every 10 men (60 percent) and five of every 10 women (50 percent) will experience trauma in their lives. While men are more likely to experience disaster, combat, physical assault, and to witness death or injury, women have higher odds of experiencing child sexual abuse or sexual assault. These events can have lasting effects, which translate into post-traumatic stress disorder, which is commonly known as PTSD.
PTSD can happen to anyone, but how do you know if you have it? Harvard University researchers have determined that genetics play a role in individuals if they develop the condition. An estimated 7 to 8 percent of the population will develop the disorder at some point in their lives. If you are injured or directly exposed to trauma, your chances of developing PTSD are much higher.
Even if the shock and fear fade over time, you may not be able to shake insomnia, anxiety, or flashbacks that persist after trauma has occurred. If flashbacks or anxiety plague you because of an event, you likely have PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health issue that arises after experiencing a distressing or life-threatening event, such as rape, combat, or a car accident. Can other factors help determine if a person has PTSD? Let’s take a look at the checklist below to see if you meet the criteria for the disorder.
Do I Have PTSD?
The only way you can accurately determine if you have PTSD is to let your physician know about the trauma you’ve endured. You must find out if your symptoms meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for PTSD. You have to meet all eight to be diagnosed with PTSD. These criteria include:
You must have been exposed to death or threatened by it. Or, you must have experienced an actual or severe injury, or have experienced or were threatened with sexual violence. You have to experience at least one of these in the following ways, according to WebMD:
- Firsthand experience of the event
- Witnessed the event
- Learning that a close friend or family member experienced this or was threatened
- You are regularly exposed to other individuals’ trauma, maybe because of your job.
You have to experience trauma several times at least one of the following ways:
- Uncontrollable thoughts
- Emotional distress
- Experiencing physical symptoms when you think about the event
- Avoiding feelings or thoughts that relate to the trauma. You might refuse to talk about war stories if that helped cause your symptoms.
- Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma. You may not want to watch a war movie if it triggers painful feelings and thoughts.
You may experience negative thoughts or feelings that got worse after the traumatic event. To meet the criterion, you must experience two of these to be true.
- You don’t remember much about the event.
- You are overly negative about the world or about yourself.
- You blame yourself or others because of the event, even if it isn’t true.
- You don’t have any interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- You feel isolated or lonely.
- You find it difficult to be positive and experience joy.
Your symptoms gradually got worse after the event. At least two of the following must be a part of your experience:
- You are always irritable or angry.
- You are always on guard, or you are easily startled.
- You engage in dangerous or risky behavior.
- You have a hard time sleeping.
- You cannot stay focused.
You will meet this criterion if your symptoms persist for more than a month.
Your symptoms are so severe that you have difficulty maintaining a job or keeping up with daily life.
Your symptoms are not caused by illegal drugs, medication, or another illness.
Treatment For PTSD
If you meet these standards, your doctor likely will diagnose you with PTSD. The next step will be to treat your condition and start on the road to recovery. Medication can help some people manage their symptoms, while others will need extensive psychotherapy. Only a licensed physician can make this determination. If you believe that you meet the criteria for PTSD, seek help immediately.