In the US, June 27th marks National PTSD Awareness Day, with heavy acknowledgement of the effects that war has had on the mental health of veterans. But this disorder is far from exclusive to soldiers. Here are seven facts that you might not know about this debilitating illness.

Photo: Luis Galvez/Unsplash

Photo: Luis Galvez/Unsplash

1. It can be late-onset

Sometimes PTSD can be recognised years after the traumatic event took place, even if there has never been any sign of lasting mental impact before. It can be difficult for the brain to process the trauma until an extended time period has elapsed, at which point various physical and mental symptoms may start to arise.

2. It's more common in women

PTSD is more often diagnosed in women than in men. This could be down to gender differences in processing emotion and empathy, but may also be because women are the biggest victims of sexual assault which is the most common trauma associated with PTSD. Men are more likely to develop addiction or anger problems in response to trauma.

3. It doesn't just affect victims

Even if you have never directly experienced trauma in your life, you can still experience PTSD. Symptoms can arise just by witnessing someone else's trauma, or else helping a close family member or friend get through a tough ordeal. The empathy you feel can be powerful enough to cause many emotional problems, and indeed first responders such as police officers, paramedics and fire fighters are at high risk of developing PTSD in their line of work.

4. Violence is the primary cause

Around 70% of PTSD sufferers have experienced violence, whether it's domestic abuse, childhood abuse, assault, rape, terrorism or war. The rate is much higher than those who have PTSD following a natural disaster, birth complications, illness, divorce or other trauma.

5. Flashbacks are different for everyone

Flashbacks, or involuntary recurrent memories, are far more than the recollection of events. It's the phenomenon of being transported back to the time and place of the traumatic event itself, or just a feeling of being overcome with the emotions and sensations associated with it - it's different for different people. They can be triggered by a variety of things from smell to sights, from noises to tastes. Sometimes hallucinations or dreams can instigate a flashback. They can be brief or last a few minutes, and it generally feels as if they've come out of nowhere.

6. PTSD is often combined with other illnesses

Many people who suffer PTSD also struggle with other problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction and alcoholism - but that doesn't mean that they go hand in hand. You may assume that anxiety is the dominant emotion when it comes to PTSD, for example, but feelings of guilt and grief are just as common.

7. It's not a sign of weakness

For the people who have to push through panic attacks and flashbacks on a daily basis thanks to PTSD, doing ANYTHING that risks being triggered is a brave move. Some people can't even leave the house because of the impact of their disorder, but a lot of them do anyway. Doing something that makes you fear for your life or your health shows strength, not weakness.

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