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Alicia Divico

Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in addiction therapy

Whatr does it mean to be traumatized
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Recently two different clients told me stories of how they were discriminated against due to having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One client was told that he could not get a promotion due to his PTSD, and the other had campus security called on him when he admitted to having a flashback. Naturally this infuriated me. I decided that I want to write a PSA for folks.

I really think part of the problem is media. I feel funny saying that, but I really think that’s where the majority get their impressions of what PTSD is…but… it’s exaggerated, because IT’S TV!

So let me explain something, EVERYTHING exists on a spectrum, and I guarantee more people have PTSD than anyone would ever guess. Let’s review the criteria, and you’ll see what I mean:

PTSD is possible if you have ever experienced the following:

  1. Exposure to death; this is what people think of most commonly, particularly with military, but it may also include watching a loved one die
  2. Exposure to a threat of death; this includes being worried that someone around you might die
  3. Exposure to actual or threatened serious injury; this includes a sports injury that ruined your potential career, a car accident, etc.
  4. Exposure to actual or threatened sexual violence
  5. Exposure does not mean you experienced it firsthand. People can have PTSD from hearing about these things happening.

The list above is more inclusive than you expected, huh? Experiencing these things does not mean you’ll definitely have PTSD, but clearly a lot of life circumstance can really impact us in serious ways, literally changing our brain chemistry. So now let’s review the symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Intrusive thoughts, which means you think of it when you don’t want to or even dream of it.
  2. Wanting to avoid thinking about the exposure. Simple.
  3. Negative thoughts or feelings that started or got worse after the exposure.
  4. Trauma related arousal: now this is the one where people ASSUME that you’re dangerous if you have PTSD, but the truth is it can include difficulty sleeping, startling easily, or difficulty concentrating. Do you think you have PTSD yet?
  5. The above symptoms have to last for 1 month.

Now that you know all that, does it seem that all people with PTSD are dangerous? No! In fact, many people have experienced things that have changed them, and that’s basically what we are talking about.

FAQ: Understanding and Addressing Misconceptions About PTSD

What experiences can potentially lead to PTSD?

PTSD can result from various experiences, not just military-related. These include exposure to death, the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. PTSD can also develop from indirect exposure, like hearing about these events happening to others.

Are all individuals with PTSD dangerous?

No, the assumption that individuals with PTSD are dangerous is a misconception. PTSD symptoms vary widely and can include intrusive thoughts, avoidance, negative changes in thoughts and mood, and trauma-related arousal like difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

What are the key symptoms of PTSD?

Key symptoms include intrusive thoughts or dreams about the traumatic event, avoidance of reminders, negative thoughts or feelings that worsen after the event, and trauma-related arousal symptoms like being easily startled or difficulty concentrating.

How long do PTSD symptoms need to last for a diagnosis?

For a PTSD diagnosis, the symptoms must persist for at least one month. It's important to recognize that PTSD exists on a spectrum, and its impact varies from person to person.

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