One week ago today, 12 people lost their lives in the mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, the survivors will grieve these tragic losses while also trying to put back together the pieces of their own lives. Everyone will heal in their own manner, and at their own pace, but essential to this healing process is an awareness of the possibility, symptoms, and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a form of anxiety marked by flashbacks that force the sufferer to relive the emotional terror of the event over and over again.
In addition to mass shootings and other random acts of mass violence, PTSD may also be triggered by other types life-threatening situations, such as natural disasters, car accidents, sexual assault and, of course, combat.
In addition to flashbacks, symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Startling easily
- Being emotionally numb
- Isolating yourself from family and friends
- Having trouble being intimate
- Feeling increasingly irritable
- Being aggressive, hostile, or violent
- Going out of your way to avoid situations you fear will remind you of the trauma
- Being unable to talk about the trauma for fear of it triggering a flashback
“With PTSD, the person’s life becomes hostage to the horror of the past,” says Dr. Gregory Jantz in Overcoming Anxiety, Worry and Fear: Practical Ways To Find Peace.
“Like a person suffering from panic attacks, the PTSD sufferer stops living life and starts crafting an existence designed to reduce the possibility of another episode. Family, friends, feelings, risks, and experiences are all jetisoned. The avoidance of another flashback becomes the only goal.”
Dr. Jantz is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, better known to our patients as A Place of Hope.
If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD:
- What are its physical characteristics? What does it do to you?
- How often does it happen?
- Do you know when it’s about to happen?
- What do you do to help yourself feel better? Does anything help?
- Does anything make it worse?
- How long does it usually last?
- Have you ever talked with someone about it? If so, who and why? If not, why not?
- How long have you been hoping it would just go way?
- Do you really believe you’ll ever be able to get over it?