PTSD: What Is It and Do I Have It?

Have you ever wondered, "What is PTSD?"

And maybe you have asked yourself, "Do I have it?" On my radio show I so often hear these types of statements:

"I keep reliving the time I was raped."

"I don't feel anything anymore, I have no emotions. I'm just numb after all the abuse I went through."

"I'm constantly on edge. I can't ever let my guard down ever since I was in that horrific car accident."

These are just a few of the different faces of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD Does Not Just Affect Veterans

PTSD is often associated with those who serve in the military and rightfully so. Since 2002 over 100,000 military members have been diagnosed with PTSD. But PTSD can affect anyone who has gone through a terrifying experience that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the pain of reliving the trauma over and over.

Since I hear the symptoms of PTSD discussed quite frequently on my radio show, I felt it would be very worthwhile to talk about this disorder today. As with everything knowledge is power and understanding is half the battle.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can include sudden increase in heart rate, rapid breathing or difficulty catching your breath, fear, panic, despair, and anxiety, with changes in mood happening suddenly after a stress trigger. The most common and pronounced symptom of PTSD is flashbacks, which make you feel like you’re reliving a harmful or traumatic experience. The good news is that there are plenty of effective treatments for PTSD that your doctor and therapist can recommend.

If you have faced a traumatic experience here is what I want you to know:

  • Not everyone who goes through a dangerous experience will get PTSD. Don't assume that just because something traumatic happened that you are destined to get PTSD. This is not the case.
  • However, if you have disturbing thoughts or feelings for more than a month after a traumatic experience, please seek help. This is NOT a sign of weakness, you are NOT expected to just get over it. What you are experiencing IS REAL and needs to be dealt with.
  • One factor to reducing the risk of getting PTSD is to immediately get support after a terrifying event (rape, abuse, accident, tornado, flood, war, etc.). Talk about it, join a support group, be open about how you feel. This has proven to be an important step.
  • Here are some signs you should see a doctor:
    • You are having trouble getting your world under control.
    • You are still having flashbacks or bad dreams.
    • You are stressed or frightened when you are no longer in danger.
    • You are avoiding normal life and losing interest in things you loved.
    • You are emotionally numb.
    • You have difficulty sleeping.
    • You are thinking suicidal thoughts.
  • There are treatments available...Therapy, Support Groups, Medication.
  • There is HOPE. With time and treatment you can overcome PTSD.
  • God is with you in the journey. He says, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you."

Now, if you know someone who has experienced a terrifying event, the role YOU play in supporting them will be key. So I'd like to offer the "support people" some advice as well:

  1. Be patient. It can be difficult for the person experiencing PTSD to express what they are feeling and it can make them uncomfortable to talk about it.
  2. NEVER assume or tell them, "It's all in your head." or "You can just get over it." or "Only veterans get PTSD."
  3. It is never too late for them to seek treatment. Even if the traumatic event occurred over a year ago or more, treatment is still important and effective.
  4. Honor their struggle to make peace with the event and don't rush it.
  5. Since their perspective is driven by fear, they are not always logical keep reaching out. Keep encouraging.

ALWAYS remember there is HOPE. Here are a number of resources to support you in your journey:

Need someone to talk to about what is going on? My HopeCoaches are ready to chat online with you 7 days a week. It's a free and confidential live chat with a HopeCoach to help you with anything that is going on in your life. They are here to listen and support you without judgment.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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4 comments on “PTSD: What Is It and Do I Have It?”

  1. I was physically abused for 11 years solid. I am 30. Only now am I truly realizing the effects, severity, and how uncommonly bad my situation truly was. I have overcome drug addiction, multiple arrests, and got a education beyond a masters. NO ONE will make what happened to any one of you reading this okay. Its not okay, its not going to be alright, it just is. It sucks. Im sorry. You have to become the person YOU want to be, not what your past has MADE you be. That sounds harsh but I got through by remembering this when I had bad thoughts....NO ONE but you can control your future but you. Make good choices, produce good outcomes. Roll with the speed bumps in life, keep your head up, and remember its always darkest before the dawn. It can get worse. It will get worse, but you made it this far. Why not make it one more day, one more year, the rest of the life you are blessed with. Make it worth it.

  2. I was sexually assaulted about a year and a half ago and have been reliving it every day since. I thought with time the nightmares and flashbacks would lessen, but they haven't, everything is intensifying. I've been having suicidal thoughts, and recently started cutting, just to get that emotional release.

  3. Well if all of those symptoms apply to u except 1 do u still have ptsd and how do u get any one to listen doctors today just act like every one is trying to get over on them

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