According to Childhelp.org, the United States loses somewhere between four and seven children everyday due to child abuse and neglect. Of industrialized nations, we are one of the worst. Domestic abuse among partners is also common. Safehorizon states, “One in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.” Though women and children are more likely to be victims of abuse, men suffer as well. Those who suffer abuse are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that occurs after witnessing or being victim to, a traumatic event. Many people associate PTSD with war veterans, but anyone at any age can have it.
Symptoms of PTSD, listed by the National Institute of Mental Health include:
Re-experiencing the event
This can come in the form of flashbacks, bad dreams, and disturbing thoughts. Seeing, smelling, or hearing something associated with the event can trigger a flashback, but sometimes they just show up on their own.
Symptoms of avoidance
Avoidance symptoms can be complicated to decipher, but they include staying away from people, places, and things that serve as reminders of the trauma. Sufferers may also feel emotionally numb, strong guilt, worry and depression, as well as commonly associated symptoms of depression.
People with hyperarousal symptoms are easily startled, tense, may have angry outbursts and difficulty sleeping. Having difficulty concentrating or eating are also symptoms.
Symptoms vary from person to person, and age makes a difference. Children may regress or become disruptive and display destructive behaviors.
Why it’s important to get help
PTSD can sometimes run under the radar and people might assume that their problems, such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, or lack of concentration are attributed to something else entirely. This can cause difficulty in work, relationships, and can affect your overall health. Counseling is always recommended after being victimized, but PTSD should be diagnosed by a qualified mental health practitioner and treated accordingly.
How is PTSD treated?
Common treatments for PTSD are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy (ET), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), also known as antidepressants. Group therapy is also helpful, in part because connecting with others who have shared experiences decreases the feeling of being alone.
If you’ve been the victim of abuse, or if you have seen someone else victimized, it is important to get help.
Numbers to know:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Women Helping Battered Women 1-802-658-1996
Safe Helpline for PTSD 1-877-995-5247
National Coalition against Domestic Violence 1-800-799-7233
U.S. Department of Federal Affairs
National Institute of Mental Health