One in 10 people will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet public understanding of the mental health condition is still limited.
The anxiety disorder can be triggered from any event an individual finds traumatic, such as rape, bullying, witnessing a crime or giving birth.
Symptoms can include flashbacks and insomnia while sufferers often experience related mental health conditions, such as depression.
To raise awareness of PTSD, here are seven things HuffPost bloggers living with the condition want you to know.
1. PTSD Can Affect Anyone
Imogen Groome was diagnosed with PTSD after being sexually assaulted in her first year of university, but says people often associate the condition with people much older.
“When I ask my friends about PTSD, a lot of them think only of war veterans or people who have experienced terrorist attacks,” she says.
“They also think it tends to happen to older people. But I experienced my traumatic event when I was 19.”
2. Flashbacks Are More Than Memories
Sezín Koehler is a survivor of gun crime and has had to learn to live with the impact of flashbacks.
“Flashbacks are not mere memories of a traumatic event, it is the body actually reliving the event, down to an accelerated heart rate that makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack, the full-body intensity of the flight or flight response, a sense of fear so overwhelming it’s inhuman, crippling anxiety, difficulty breathing, and the feeling that you just want to die so you never have to remember that horrible event that now shapes your life,” she says.
“This can sometimes go on for days, coupled with panic attacks, night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, and more. It’s debilitating. It’s humiliating. It’s dehumanising.”
3. Progress Can Be Slow
Ella Robson began to experience PTSD after living through a natural disaster when she was younger. Her recovery has not been instant and she tries to focus on small positive things, like good weather.
“Recovery is a journey, as cheesy as that sounds… and the recent weather has reminded me of how possible it is to overcome things, no matter how horrible things get,” she says.
“It’s human nature to grow, to try our hardest to move forward and we should certainly celebrate every success (no matter how small – AKA: celebrating not feeling anxious when the weather is bad). Especially when we are often reminded of just how terrifying things can be, we need to try and remind ourselves and others that it is possible to move forward.”
4. Simple Signs Of Affection Can Help
Rosie Burnham was diagnosed with PTSD after suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse when she was 13. Support from friends and family continues to aid her recovery.
“When I was first diagnosed, I became extremely withdrawn. I hated being touched, hugged, or shown love because I felt I was unlovable, unworthy, unclean, and frightened. This was even with my own family,” she says.
“My mum continued to support and hug me even when I would push her away. A simple hug makes all the difference, this allowed me to grow to trust and love again.”
5. You Can Feel Like Your Own Worst Enemy
William Shield spent almost six years in the British Army and completed two tours in Afghanistan. Now, he feels like he is fighting himself.
“The fact is that war doesn’t end. I was locked in a forever war the moment I first witnessed it, the moment I pulled the trigger, heard the sounds, and witnessed the chaos. I became forever in conflict,” he says.
“The saddest part is the enemy is the only enemy I can’t defeat – myself. I’m locked in an eternal struggle with my mind.”
6. Leaving Hospital Can Be The Hardest Part
Catriona Ogilvy was diagnosed with PTSD after the premature birth of her baby. She found being discharged from hospital made her symptoms worse.
“No one warns you about the flashbacks, with PTSD often presenting itself once you are home,” she says.
“The support network of the hospital can disappear overnight and you are left to wonder how on earth you made it through. Family and friends with good intention assume that the difficult times are behind you and the idea that discharge would be the end of your neonatal journey suddenly seems farcical.”
7. It Does Get Easier
Natasha Batsford suffered from birth trauma after the birth of her first son. She began to comprehend her PTSD when she became pregnant for the second time and says there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I spent time talking through my experiences and making my peace with them. I planned two amazing births which allowed me to feel respected and empowered by surrounding myself with the right kind of support,” she says.
“And I came out the other side, a little scarred, a little tougher, but no worse for those things. One day, with the right support, you will too. I promise.”