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PTSD is Not Just for Veterans

by | Jun 24, 2022 | PTSD, Trauma

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

What is PTSD and who does it Target?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does not target any particular age, sex, or population group. Anyone can experience or witness a traumatic event and develop PTSD.

PTSD is not just for veterans, but many individuals visualize military-related trauma when they think of PTSD. According to

“PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as ‘shell shock’ during the years of World War I and ‘combat fatigue’ after World War II, but PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans.”

Matthew J. Friedman, MD. Ph.D., reports that PTSD was not added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980. “Although controversial when first introduced, the PTSD diagnosis has filled an important gap in psychiatric theory and practice.”

Dr. Friedman explains that this change in history ushered in the knowledge that PTSD is caused by a traumatic event, which derailed the concept that the cause is “human weakness or a mental illness such as traumatic neurosis.”

Common Causes of PTSD

PTSD results from experiencing, witnessing, or learning about a traumatic event. PTSD can happen as a result of any event where someone experiences trauma.

Individuals working particular jobs are at a higher risk of developing PTSD, such as first responders (i.e., police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and emergency department personnel).

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists some factors that increase the risk for PTSD:

  • Living through dangerous events and traumas
  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body
  • Childhood trauma
  • Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
  • Having little or no social support after the event
  • Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
  • Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse

Most people will experience at least one trauma in their lives, but not everyone develops PTSD. In the United States, about 6% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. the threat of death (or a perceived threat of death), violence, sexual or physical assault, abuse or neglect, accidents or natural disasters, severe injuries or terminal illness, or witnessing violence or death.

Main Symptom Types and the Dangers of Untreated PTSD

PTSD is a serious mental condition that can affect anyone, and it presents with life-altering symptoms.

The four main groups of PTSD symptoms are intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, negative changes in thoughts or mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Traumatic stress affects the brain. Preclinical and clinical studies report “alterations in memory function following traumatic stress, as well as changes in a circuit of brain areas…that mediate alternations in memory.” In synopsis, untreated PTSD can cause trauma and injury to the brain.

Who Can Develop PTSD?

NIMH reports:

“Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or other serious events. … Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD.”

According to the National Center for PTSD, “Rates for lifetime PTSD were higher among White, African American, and Afro-Caribbean Americans, lower among Latinx Americans, and lowest among those who were Asian compared to all other groups.”

An abstract published by NCBI reports “Our finding that Blacks in the USA have the same or lower exposure than Whites to unexpected deaths and traumas to friends and relatives is counter-intuitive, given that Blacks experience higher mortality and higher crime victimization rates than Whites.

Minorities in (this) study had substantially lower odds of treatment-seeking for their PTSD-related symptoms than Whites. … Explanations for why race/ethnic minorities receive treatment less frequently than Whites vary by race/ethnic group and include: shared group perceptions that mental illness is highly stigmatizing; reluctance to seek help outside the family except in extreme [circumstances]; mistrust of physicians; perception of racial or ethnic bias in care providers; and reduced access to general- and mental-health facilities due to residence in poverty areas.”

In summary, PTSD is NOT just for veterans. ANYONE can develop PTSD. Some individuals avoid getting treatment for PTSD, as indicated in the NCBI abstract, which may skew the overall PTSD statistics, but most importantly – untreated PTSD can cause permanent changes to the brain.

No Shame – Get the Help You Need Today

Feelings like shame, fear, and guilt can all be contributing factors to the stigma of seeking out mental health services, which can cause disorders such as PTSD to worsen.

When we compound this stigma with someone’s cultural, racial, and economic background, this can create the idea that mental health treatment will be ineffectual and can prevent those who need treatment from seeking it out.

Western Tidewater Community Services Board is dedicated to making sure that all members of our community have the skills and resources they need to achieve a sense of well-being and purpose in life.

We are a community of hope and caring.

We’re here and ready to connect 24/7. We make access to professional, high-quality, wrap-around care convenient and easy – including Same Day Access for crisis intervention.


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