Q: I live in an area which was evacuated during the gas explosions. One of my neighbors supposedly has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I always thought this only happens to soldiers who have been in war related incidents. All of my neighbors were impacted but the rest of us have been able to return to our normal activities. Could this really be what is wrong with her?
A: You are not alone in your thought process, people generally associate combat veterans being impacted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Due to the large number of servicemen who have been diagnosed with PTSD over the past decade there has been considerable focus on the devastating effects this has had on the men and women who have experienced horrific events during their military deployments.
PTSD is not limited to individuals enlisted in the military. This condition is directly related to trauma a person has experienced which could be rape, physical assault, verbal and emotional abuse, a serious car accident or any other disaster. Essentially a person could be diagnosed with PTSD after any kind of devastating/scary event that controls/diminishes their ability to cope with the after effects and impacts their ability to function.
Someone impacted by PTSD may experience nightmares, anxiety, and or depressed mood. They may go to great lengths to avoid situations that could remind them of the trauma or have heightened reactions to stimuli. It is not unusual considering the circumstances for some individuals impacted by the area explosions to be fearful of turning on any gas appliances, fearful of even returning to their own home, or to be consumed by the fear this will happen again. Symptoms can appear almost immediately, months or years later (as in the case of Vietnam Veterans).
It is important for anyone who has symptoms that last for one month to seek medical attention for evaluation and treatment options. We encourage people to call us at 1-800-892-0890 if they require assistance in finding resources experienced in providing therapy to PTSD victims. Not everyone experiencing the same trauma will be impacted by PTSD…but this should never be trivialized! Those diagnosed and then receive proper care will hopefully be able to recover and move on with their lives free of suffering.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services.