Oh, the crisp fall leaves
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
About 7-8% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime, approximately 8 million people experiencing it during a given year. Now in those statistics there are people that have experienced a whole host of traumatic experiences, military folks included. But imagine for a minute that we are only focused on sexual assault victims. The 1 in 5 women that will experience a completed or attempted rape during their lifetime and the nearly 24.8% of men that experience some sort of sexual violence in theirs. Most of these individuals experience their first experience of sexual trauma between 11 and 17. Now, I've thrown a lot of statistics and numbers at you. I've gotten boring on you. But it's important. Someone in your life, whether they have told you or not has experienced a sexual trauma and whether they developed PTSD or are still dealing with PTSD is a whole other issue. Some individuals have an inherent biological vulnerability that puts them at risk of developing certain mental disorders such at PTSD, this is the Diathesis Stress Model (kinda cool if you want to learn more about it). But if your friend Sally and your friend Fred both experience the same traumatic event, Sally may experience PTSD while Fred may not just due to their inherent biologic vulnerability. Kinda cool right? Well, not for Sally, but you get it. PTSD is also a whole lot more than just reliving the experience over and over again. I've added this helpful image at the bottom that lists some of the other symptoms of PTSD and what it may be like to experience it. But to give you a synopsis of what it may be like, imagine for a moment that you smell autumn leaves and you see events of the trauma flash before your eyes. Your mailman pushes mail through your door and you feel like you're about to be killed. You walk around outside in a parking lot waiting for your assailant to be around every corner ready to do it again. You can't concentrate on anything, you struggle to remember things, you have no appetite, you forget to eat. Your anxiety is so excessive that you struggle to function, you have triggers that make no sense and triggers that do but both cause you to have panic attacks. You can no longer sleep through the night and you are constantly exhausted, you have night terrors. You feel shame and guilt for what happened and no one can change your mind. You have completely self isolated and no longer want to do anything. You hate your body, your sex life is complicated, and you dissociate. Those are only pieces of PTSD. Suicidal ideation and substance use is common. If someone you know or you are struggling with PTSD, substance use, or suicidal ideation, please reach out to someone - a counselor, a hotline 1-800-273-8255, or 911. Remember to find new things that make you happy, because smelling the autumn leaves isn't always an option.