• PTSD Awareness Month

Lisa Fortuna, MD

As June unfolds, it brings a significant reminder: it's PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Month. This month serves as an opportunity to shed light on a condition that affects millions worldwide yet often remains misunderstood or overlooked. PTSD can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, including children who may present with irritability and difficulty learning. While PTSD can be very distressing, the good news is that treatment can be highly effective and individuals can find relief and healing, though it may take time. "It is really important to seek care, work closely with a therapist and/or psychiatrist and stick with it. It can be scary at the beginning, but things can get better," says Dr. Lisa Fortuna, Chair of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UCR Health.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. These events can range from natural disasters, accidents, and combat exposure to physical or sexual assault and other forms of violence. While it's normal to experience stress reactions after such events, for some individuals, these reactions persist, intensify, and interfere with daily life.

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Flashbacks and Intrusive Memories: Individuals with PTSD may experience intrusive memories of the traumatic event, often triggered by reminders such as sights, sounds, or smells. Flashbacks can feel as though the trauma is happening again, leading to intense emotional and physical reactions.
  • Avoidance: Avoidance behavior is common among those with PTSD. They may avoid people, places, activities, or situations that remind them of the traumatic event. This avoidance can disrupt daily routines and social relationships.
  • Hyperarousal: Individuals may feel constantly on edge, experiencing heightened anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. They may be easily startled or have difficulty concentrating, leading to challenges in work or school environments.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood: PTSD can lead to negative changes in thoughts and beliefs about oneself or others. Feelings of guilt, shame, or detachment from others are common. This can manifest as difficulty experiencing positive emotions or maintaining close relationships.
  • Emotional Reactivity: Those with PTSD may experience intense emotional reactions, including anger, sadness, or fear, that seem disproportionate to the current situation. These emotional responses can be overwhelming and challenging to manage.

How to Help

  • Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about PTSD and its symptoms. Understanding the condition can help you provide more effective support to those experiencing it.
  • Offer a Listening Ear: Sometimes, all someone with PTSD needs is someone to listen without judgment. Be patient and attentive when they choose to open up about their experiences.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Encourage individuals with PTSD to seek professional help. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), can be highly effective in managing symptoms.
  • Be Supportive: Offer your support in practical ways, such as helping with daily tasks or accompanying them to therapy appointments. Let them know that you are there for them, even if you may not fully understand what they're going through.
  • Practice Self-Care: Supporting someone with PTSD can be emotionally draining. Take care of yourself by setting boundaries, seeking support from others, and engaging in activities that help you recharge.

As we observe PTSD Awareness Month this June, let us remember that PTSD is not a sign of weakness but a natural response to experiencing trauma. By raising awareness, fostering understanding, and offering support, we can create a more compassionate and inclusive community for those living with PTSD. Together, we can break the stigma surrounding mental health and promote healing and resilience.

Talk to your UCR Health primary care provider for more information 

If you don't have a primary care provider, find one by visiting https://www.ucrhealth.org/make-an-appointment/ or give us a call at 1-844-827-8000.

About UCR Health

UCR Health is comprised of a team of physicians, specialists, and healthcare professionals dedicated to improving people’s health. With five medical offices located throughout the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley, UCR Health is growing to meet the healthcare needs of the region, bringing innovative, culturally sensitive medical care to the community. Established alongside the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, UCR Health’s patient-centered primary care and specialty services deliver university-based healthcare excellence and innovation to all communities.