Often thought of as only affecting wartime veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder touches men, women and children of all walks of life. June is recognized as PTSD Awareness Month. I invite you to learn more about this treatable illness by understanding the signs and symptoms, dispelling myths and stigmas, and discovering key resources to continued learning.

To understand PTSD, we need to understand what a traumatic stressor can be. There are three levels that can describe a stressor. They include daily hassles such as a car breaking down or paying bills. They can be major life events such as losing a job, getting divorced, buying a new home or getting married. And they can be serious traumatic events that include things such as war zone exposure, physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters or torture.  

Traumatic stressor exposure is quite common. PTSD is more prevalent than commonly thought. Traumatic events that may lead to PTSD are sexual or physical assault, serious accidents like a car wreck or natural disasters like a hurricane or earthquake. Sixty percent of men and half of women experience this in some form. Understanding this exposure creates awareness.

Individuals with PTSD can struggle with feeling misunderstood. They may resist telling their family and friends out of fear of judgment and differential treatment. Understanding the illness and disassociating from stigmas are important steps in building PTSD awareness.  

PTSD remains shrouded in myth, so let’s dispel some of those notions.

* Myth 1: Only Military veterans suffer from PTSD. Despite their rigorous military training, veterans are not immune to traumatic stressors. However, PTSD is not a veteran-only illness. Only 7 percent of all veterans develop PTSD.  

* Myth 2: People with PTSD are weak.

Personal factors, such as prior traumatic exposure and demographics, could have impact on the development of PTSD. Characteristics of the trauma show a larger contribution than the personal factors. One of the most consistent findings is that the greater the severity of exposure, the greater the likelihood to develop PTSD. The recovery environment factors are the most important. Among those is the level of social support following the event. 

* Myth 3: People with PTSD are dangerous.

The movie scene where the character with PTSD becomes violent with those around them provides entertainment on screen, but aggression is not a PTSD trait. Some primary PTSD symptoms include, but are not limited to, avoiding situations, nightmares, trouble focusing, insomnia, guilt and isolation.

In Summary, PTSD is quite a bit more widespread than commonly thought. It effects more than half of adult men and women at various levels. Being aware of its various incarnations should help those who suffer with it be better able to cope with it. National PTSD Awareness Day is dedicated to creating awareness regarding PTSD. It is acknowledged annually on June 27. The U.S. Senate officially designated this day in 2010. In 2014, the Senate designated the whole month of June as PTSD Awareness Month.


Mitch Williams owns and operates Home Helpers of San Mateo County In-Home Care for Seniors. Visit homehelpershomecare.com/sanmateo.

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