LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an issue that more people deal with, than you may think. June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day. Fox 4’s Rachel Loyd spoke with Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Rachele Epp, with Southwest Florida Counseling. She shared the signs and how to cope with the disorder.
Rachel: We know people who have served in the military - we hear about veterans having PTSD, but what are some other traumatic events that can lead to PTSD?
Epp: Having experienced childhood abuse, or a sexual assault. If you’re constantly exposed to situations where there is a lot of trauma. Police officers, firefighter, EMTs, ER workers. They see a lot of tragedy, and so, they too can be more prone to PTSD, just because of their job.
Rachel: What are some signs that someone may be dealing with PTSD?
Epp: Someone with PTSD is going to tell you, I think about it all the time. Even years and years later. They will still think about that traumatic event almost daily. The second category that is common in PTSD is avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma. It could be people, places, situations that they’re trying to avoid. A lot of negative thoughts. For example, they might have a lot of beliefs that, “it was my fault, or I can’t trust people, or I’m not safe or this world is a horrible place. And then the last category that is always involved when you have someone with PTSD, is these reactionary - feeling very reactionary in their emotions and in their behaviors. So, they might be easily angered.
Rachel: There’s also social stigma around mental illness - when it comes to society as well as yourself. There may be self-stigma when it comes to that. Can you just explain what that stigma is, and how that can make it difficult for people to deal with mental illness and get the help that they need.
Epp: A lot of the time people are afraid to go to counseling, because they’re afraid they’ll be judged by family members, friends, co-workers - if people know there’s something mentally wrong with that person. Often times, too, we feel like we should be able to get through this by ourselves. Like, if I were strong enough, I could pull myself up by my bootstraps, and I could get through this. There’s a lot of different things that keep people from going to therapy. Sometimes they’re afraid of finding out - what the counselor or the doctor’s going to tell them, and so they just avoid going so they don’t hear what they have to say.
Rachel: And you already talked about therapy as one method to deal with PTSD - to cope with it. What are some other common ways that people can deal with PTSD?
Epp: First off, the most important thing is not to try to go through it alone - to find support. So, get your family rallying around you. Find a support group. Find a therapist. And then, find a good medical provider to also support you. People who are struggling with PTSD are also struggling with depression, and anxiety, and insomnia and nightmares. And there are medications that can help with that, so the individual can feel like they’re functioning. And when they feel like they’re functioning, they’re much more able to do therapy.
Epp: I just want people to know that there is hope and healing when it comes to facing post-traumatic stress disorder. The is not a life sentence. And with the right help, and the support, you can get past it.