Throughout the month of June, organizations and individuals aim to bring greater awareness to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is more common than you may think. In the United States, one in 11 people will have PTSD during their lifetime, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Experiencing trauma is common, and each time an individual undergoes a traumatic event, he or she has a chance to develop PTSD. In a previous post, I explored four things you should know about PTSD, which can be a complicated illness.
The Importance of Resilience
One frequently asked question about PTSD: What causes it? While two people may experience the same traumatic event, it is possible that just one of them will ever have PTSD. There are many factors that make it more or less likely that someone will experience PTSD.
One factor is a person’s background and experience. People who have been exposed to combat, engaged in violent behavior against others, or have a history of family physical or substance abuse are predisposed to developing PTSD. For example, veterans and victims of child abuse can be much more likely to develop PTSD.
Another factor: PTSD actually affects more women than men. About 10 percent of women develop PTSD, compared to 4 percent of men.
Resilience, defined as the ability to maintain a normal state despite difficult circumstances, is also a significant factor in whether someone does or does not develop PTSD. Many people are able to maintain their resilience when they experience traumatic events, and these individuals may be more independent, creative, or outgoing than their peers who are less resilient.
According to a review in Current Psychiatry, there are six psychosocial factors that are associated with resilience to both PTSD and everyday stress:
- Active coping styles, such as problem-solving and learning to handle emotions that accompany stress
- Regular physical exercise
- Positive outlook, such as embracing humor
- Moral compass
- Social support
- Cognitive flexibility
These traits can have an effect on whether or not someone develops PTSD or experiences high levels of stress.
Types of PTSD Therapy
In addition to medication prescribed for PTSD, many people who have the condition choose to pursue types of therapy to supplement their treatment. Veteran-focused organizations especially have been exploring new and unique ways to help individuals cope with PTSD.
Some veterans have found relief through fly-fishing with Project Healing Waters, a program designed to help heal both visible and invisible war wounds.
Art therapy is another way to help individuals with PTSD, and it’s an approach that has gained popularity among military personnel and veterans. Participants in a 2016 study, for example, spent eight sessions drawing trauma narratives, making masks, and reviewing their art. While there is still more research to be done on this topic, the study found that creative activities may improve PTSD symptoms.
Always consult your clinician when considering treatment or before engaging in alternative forms of therapy. PTSD affects everyone differently, and when developing a treatment plan, it is important to take those differences into consideration.
Despite its prevalence, PTSD is still stigmatized today because many do not understand the disorder or consider it an injury. You can help by educating yourself and others about PTSD. To start, check out this resource list from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
About the Author
An author of over 425 articles and more than 1,500 scientific presentations and abstracts, Dr. Stephen Stahl is an internationally recognized clinician, researcher, and teacher in psychiatry with subspecialty expertise in psychopharmacology. Dr. Stahl has edited five books and written 25 more, including the best-selling textbook Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology, now in its third edition, and the best-selling clinical manual, Essential Psychopharmacology Prescriber’s Guide, also in its third edition.