Unmasking PTSD: Understanding, Recognizing, and Addressing PTSD

By Krista Mueller, LPC

June is PTSD Awareness Month, a month dedicated to spreading knowledge about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event causing severe psychological shock and can cause dissociative symptoms. PTSD is more common than we would like to think. This month serves as a reminder to educate ourselves about PTSD, support those affected, and advocate for effective treatment and recovery options.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a complex mental health disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, or personal assaults. While it’s normal to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation, individuals with PTSD continue to experience intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience long after the event has ended.

Symptoms of PTSD

Below are some symptoms of PTSD. Please note that these are only some of the symptoms and each symptom can present differently in everyone.

Intrusive Thoughts: Recurrent, unwanted memories of the traumatic event. This can include flashbacks, dreams, and nightmares, where the individual feels as though they are reliving the event, and nightmares related to the trauma.

Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event. This can involve steering clear of places, activities, or people that bring back memories of the trauma. Individuals may also avoid talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood: This can include negative thoughts about oneself or the world, feelings of hopelessness, memory problems (such as an inability to remember the traumatic event or pieces of it), difficulty maintaining close relationships, detachment, and lack of interest in activities once enjoyed.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions: This can display as being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge,” having difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, reckless behavior, difficulty concentrating, and experiencing irritability and/or anger outbursts.

Treatment for PTSD

Treatment for PTSD is highly individualized, but several effective options can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Common treatments include:

Counseling/Therapy: Sometimes referred to as “talk therapy,” this can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns. Counseling and therapy can assist the person process, cope with, and heal from the traumatic event. Therapy could include exposure therapy, which can help them safely face and control their fear. Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing could be another addition to therapy, as this method involves moving your eyes a specific way while you process traumatic memories.

Medication: Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help control PTSD symptoms. Other medications might be used to manage specific symptoms like anxiety or sleep difficulties.

Alternative Therapies: Practices such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and mindfulness can complement traditional treatments and help reduce symptoms.

Support Groups: Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas can provide a sense of community and understanding, as well as a safe place to share one’s story with others who may have experienced something similar.

Living with PTSD

Living with PTSD can be challenging for the individual affected and their families and loved ones. Below are some brief insights into what it’s like to live with PTSD:

Constant Vigilance: Many individuals with PTSD feel like they are always on high alert, making it difficult to relax or feel safe.

Emotional Numbness: To avoid pain, people with PTSD may shut down emotionally, leading to difficulties in forming or maintaining close relationships.

Guilt and Shame: They might blame themselves for the traumatic event or feel ashamed of their reactions to it.

Struggles with Daily Life: Routine activities, such as going to work or socializing, can become overwhelming and exhausting.

Supporting Those with PTSD

If you know someone with PTSD, your support can make a significant difference. Here are some ways to help:

Listen Without Judgement: Be a supportive listener. Allow them to share their feelings without interrupting or offering unsolicited advice.

Encourage Treatment: Gently encourage them to seek professional help and offer to accompany them to appointments if they feel comfortable.

Be Patient: Understand that recovery is a long process and there will be good days and bad days.

Recognize a Lack of Understanding: Acknowledge that you may not be able to fully understand their experience and feelings, if you have not experienced a traumatic event or something similar. Especially with veterans, their experience is not something many civilians fully understand or imagine.

Educate Yourself: Learn about PTSD to better understand what your loved one is going through and how best to support them.


PTSD Awareness Month is an opportunity to shed light on the struggles faced by those living with PTSD and to promote understanding, compassion, and support. By educating ourselves and others, advocating for effective treatment, and offering our support, we can help those affected by PTSD lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, reach out to mental health professionals for support and treatment. Remember, help is available, and recovery is possible, as hard as that may be to imagine right now!

Reach out to us today to set up an appointment to start receiving the support you deserve at 847-854-4333 or admin@owenscounseling.com.